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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan faces second lawsuit over federal unemployment benefits

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan faces a second lawsuit over his decision to end federal pandemic unemployment benefits early.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Baltimore Circuit Court, six unemployed Marylanders allege that the state — which plans to end the jobless aid Saturday — has violated its duties under state law and the Maryland Constitution to secure federal benefits for eligible residents. The complaint also names Maryland Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson as a defendant.

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“With its unlawful action, the State is unnecessarily and prematurely cutting a lifeline for struggling Marylanders and risks plunging tens of thousands of Maryland citizens into housing instability as well as severe emotional and economic crisis,” allege the plaintiffs, who include a massage therapist from Montgomery County and a laid-off Johns Hopkins University dining room attendant from Baltimore.

The lawsuit is the second one filed since last week over Hogan’s plans to end the federal benefits. It came days before Maryland is set to stop extra $300 weekly payments and programs including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which Congress had extended to September.

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The plaintiffs hope to get a hearing Thursday or Friday for a temporary injunction, said attorney Sally Dworak-Fisher of the Baltimore-based Public Justice Center, which is representing the residents along with the law firm Gallagher Evelius & Jones LLP.

Hogan’s spokesman, Mike Ricci, reiterated the same comments he made last week after six other residents filed a separate class action lawsuit also seeking to halt the state from cutting off the federal benefits.

“Go anywhere in the state right now, and employers will tell you their top challenge is finding enough workers,” the Republican’s spokesman said. “In fact, there are more jobs available now than ever before.”

He also repeated that President Joe Biden’s administration has made comments that governors have “every right” to “pull back” on the benefits early.

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The Unemployed Workers Union, an advocacy group organized by the People’s Power Assembly to help people obtain benefits, said Wednesday that their lawsuit was being moved to federal court after the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, who represents the state, requested the change.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard D. Bennett will hold a hearing at the Edward A. Garmatz United States District Courthouse in Baltimore on Friday at 11 a.m. Attorney Alec Summerfield, who is representing the workers along with Robbie Leonard, said arguments will be made to prevent Hogan from ending federal benefits before a court can hear the case.

“There’s no doubt there are federal issues in this case but it was our belief that the state court was perfectly capable of handling it,” Summerfield said.

The Maryland Attorney General’s Office declined to comment.

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