Maryland signs up for $300 weekly jobless benefit extension

Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson, shown in an earlier photo with Gov. Larry Hogan, says the benefits will be retroactive to Aug. 1 or when a claimant was first eligible. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Unemployed Marylanders will be eligible for an additional payment of $300 weekly starting sometime in September, state officials announced Wednesday.

The benefits, part of an extension ordered by President Donald Trump, would come from a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

“Our department is grateful for the opportunity to apply for federal funding from FEMA to provide additional financial support to unemployed Marylanders as our state continues to recover from the impact of COVID-19,” Maryland Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson said in a statement. “While it will take some time to work with the federal administration to implement this new program, all claimants will receive benefit payments retroactive to their earliest date of eligibility within the new program.”

Unemployed residents had been receiving an additional $600 per week in federal funds as part of a pandemic assistance payment. Those payments, part of the CARES Act, ended on July 25.

An attempt to extend the benefits through legislation has stalled as House Democrats and Senate Republicans are at loggerheads over additional aid.

House Democrats favor a $3 trillion proposal that would include additional $600 per week payments to the unemployed in addition to state benefits. Senate Republicans want a slimmer $1 trillion plan that could include reduced weekly benefits, citing concerns that some workers are refusing to return to their jobs because the unemployment benefits exceed their salaries.

In early August, Trump signed an executive order to provide an additional $400 per week with states picking up 25% of the payment. It turned out that governors actually have two plans from which to choose, one that provides $300 or one for $400 a week.

States are required to chip in $100 per claimant to be able to send out the higher amount, something few have agreed to do, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

Under the terms of the program through FEMA, states will meet the $300 match requirement as long as the recipient normally would receive at least $100 in weekly benefits.

FEMA, which will provide an additional $300 per week, will need to approve the state’s application. The additional funds would not be available likely until late September, but the benefits would be retroactive to Aug. 1.

State officials warned, however, that the program could end if federal funding is exhausted or a new deal is reached on supplemental unemployment payments.

Those filing claims do not need to file new unemployment applications but will have to certify that they continue to be unemployed because of the ongoing pandemic.

Benefits would expire on Dec. 26.

The state’s first-time unemployment filings in each of the last two weeks have been the lowest since the start of the pandemic in March. A new weekly report is expected Thursday morning.

Additionally, the state’s unemployment rate for June — the most recent month available — was 8%, down from more than 10% at the height of the pandemic-driven unemployment surge. In June and July, the state added 98,000 jobs.

A new report on July’s unemployment rate is expected Friday.

“Maryland is doing much better on our health metrics than most of the rest of the country, we are doing much better on our economic recovery than most of the rest of the country, and we want to do whatever it takes to keep it that way,” Gov. Larry Hogan said. “But far too many Marylanders are still struggling to make ends meet during this pandemic. With this critical funding, we can help those struggling Marylanders weather this storm, get back on their feet, and recover.”

An Associated Press survey found that as of Monday, 18 states have said they will take the federal grants allowing them to increase unemployment checks by $300 or $400 a week. The AP tally shows that 30 states have said they’re still evaluating the offer or have not said whether they plan to accept the president’s slimmed-down benefits. Two have said no.

This week, Michigan, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Arkansas announced they would apply for the $300-a-week plan.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.




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