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Baltimore Judge Rules Against Discontinuing Pandemic Unemployment Benefits; State To Appeal

BALTIMORE, MD (WJZ)-- A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge has issued a temporary restraining order Saturday stopping governor Hogan's order to opt-out of the federal unemployment benefits. The decision came just before the benefits were set to expire at midnight.

Saturday's ruling will expire on July 13 unless it is renewed or extended and the court will confer with counsel on or after July 6 to set a date for a full adversary hearing on the plaintiff's motions for a preliminary injunction.

Marylander's will continue to receive the $300 in federal benefits under the temporary restraining order issued by Judge Fletcher-Hill.

The ruling says plaintiffs proved discontinuing federal benefits would cause "substantial, irreparable harm" and orders governor Hogan and labor secretary Tiffany Robinson to notify the US Department of Labor by midnight that Maryland will not be terminating federal unemployment benefits.

The court said in its memorandum opinion that hearing the struggles of the plaintiffs was particularly impactful.

"In its global scope and in the anxiety that almost all people experience over the threat of disease, the impact of the pandemic has been universal, but the brief stories of these Plaintiffs reminds the Court that the impact of the pandemic has been cruelly uneven. Some have suffered death or debilitating illness themselves, in their families, or among their friends. Others have experienced severe economic hardship from involuntary unemployment or the inability to work because of the need to take on childcare and eldercare responsibilities. As one who has enjoyed the privilege of continuous, secure employment, the Court is particularly struck by the plight of those who have had to struggle with irregular or no employment."

The governor's office announced that the state will fight the ruling: "There is a record number of jobs available right now, and this program is making it harder to fill them and fully reopen our businesses. It's hurting our recovery across every region and industry. The state is appealing today's ruling."

"Even President Biden has said that states have every right to do what's best for our economies," said Governor Hogan in a tweet Saturday afternoon. "I'm confident the courts will rule in favor of getting Marylanders back to work, supporting struggling small businesses, and continuing our economic recovery."

The Maryland Democratic Party released a statement in support of the ruling, saying Hogan's decision to end the benefits was "cruel and unnecessary."

"This is a big win for Maryland working families whose lives were about to get a lot harder because of Governor Hogan. Larry Hogan's decision to prematurely cut off pandemic unemployment assistance while many Marylanders are still struggling to find work and child care was cruel, unnecessary, and blatantly political. It's unfortunate Larry Hogan doesn't seem to care how many people in our state he hurts just to advance his own political career. Thankfully, today's decision means struggling Marylanders will for now continue to receive the relief they need in spite of the Governor's efforts"

Both the memorandum opinion and restraining order can be found in full below.

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