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Courts side with unemployed workers in two states, forcing Indiana and Maryland to keep pandemic-related $300 supplemental benefits

Unemployed workers in two Republican-led states — Maryland and Indiana — will see more money in their weekly checks, after courts sided against state officials' efforts to end the extra $300 per week in benefits approved by the federal government in response to the pandemic.

Indiana will restart those enhanced benefits Friday, while increased benefits for Maryland workers will not lapse.

A judge in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday ordering Governor Larry Hogan and the state labor secretary to ensure that Maryland workers continue to receive the supplemental benefits available under federal legislation passed in response to the pandemic. The governor had moved to end the supplemental benefits and others aimed at gig workers and others who don't qualify for traditional unemployment on July 3.

Hogan's office said while it "fundamentally disagrees" with the decision, it will not appeal, signaling those benefits will continue until they expire nationally September 6. 

The two states were among 26 to end the benefits early, 25 of them led by Republicans, as officials argued the extra money kept people from returning to work, creating labor shortages as the country reopens. Hogan's office pointed out there are more than 250,000 available jobs in Maryland. Work search requirements will go into effect next week.

"This lawsuit is hurting our small businesses, jeopardizing our economic recovery, and will cause significant job loss. Most states have already ended enhanced benefits, and the White House and the US Department of Labor have affirmed that states have every right to do so," said Hogan's spokesman Michael Ricci, in a statement.

The Indiana state court of appeals denied a request Monday by Governor Eric Holcomb to stay a lower court order reinstating enhanced benefits. Indiana moved to end those mid-June.

Lawsuits have also been filed in Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas after those states announced they would end programs early.

Economists have acknowledged the bigger benefits are playing some role but have also indicated other factors at play including the lack of child care, concerns about health as COVID-19 cases continue and shifts in career goals keeping people from immediately returning to the workforce. 

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