A judge will hear arguments tomorrow in Baltimore Circuit Court from lawyers representing unemployed Marylanders and lawyers representing Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. The Governor is trying to stop unemployed Marylanders from receiving federal unemployment benefits. The federal program ends in early September. Hogan wants it to end now, believing it will spur work people into going out and getting a job.
Lawyers for unemployed Marylanders contend that there aren’t as many jobs as Hogan thinks there are. They argue withholding federal unemployment benefits will create an undue hardship on unemployed Marylanders.
This court case was supposed to happen this past Friday, but it was postponed for Monday at the last minute. Supposedly it was so both sides could prepare witnesses. I think it created even more stress and drama for people already extremely stressed out and sick of drama. The temporary restraining order placed on Hogan from putting a stop to the federal program runs out Tuesday evening. That means if there is another last-minute postponement, Hogan can pull the plug on the federal unemployment system.
What annoys me the most about this whole controversy is the mixed messages coming from the state of Maryland. When I submit my weekly unemployment claim to the state, I’m asked the following question:
6. During the week listed above, were you able and available for work in your occupation without restrictions?
This means you were physically and mentally able to work and available to work all hours on any day that are customary for your occupation.
The state more than implies the expectation for the unemployed person to look for not just any job, but one in their occupation. What that means, for example, if you are in your late 50s with a technical degree and an employment history spanning decades working in the tech industry, you are not expected to apply for a minimum wage job working as a dishwasher at a restaurant. At least that’s the way it seems to me.
For the record, I’ve been applying for lots of jobs in my occupation. I’ve even applied for jobs paying Maryland minimum wage (currently $11.75). No one has contacted me other than to send me an email informing me that they are not considering me for the position. Personally, I think they take one look at my resume, see the year I graduated high school, and stop reading.
The problem is Gov. Hogan doesn’t seem to agree with unemployed people seeking only jobs in their occupation. It seems like he wants the 178,000 unemployed Marylanders currently receiving federal unemployment payments to go out and take any part-time, minimum wage shit job, they can find.
The letter, signed by Democratic members of the House of Delegates, also called on the governor withdraw his defense in the lawsuits filed by two groups of plaintiffs. The letter read, “We implore you to focus on solutions that will help both businesses and struggling workers as they transition back to the workforce.”
Michael Ricci, Hogan’s communications director, responded to the legislator’s letter in an email, writing, “The judge will soon hear the case on the merits for the first time, and they pull a political stunt like this. It smacks of total desperation. What exactly is their plan to help small businesses and Mom-and-Pop stores struggling to find workers right now? They don’t have one. Just a bunch of nonsense.”
If there’s anyone familiar with nonsense, it’s Michael Ricci. The fact is, there aren’t a lot of technical jobs at mom-and-pop stores. The same is true with most small businesses. If Michael Ricci were to ask me what is being done for small businesses and mom-and-pop stores, I would point to the federal unemployment program, passed by Congress and signed into law by the President of the United States. It’s the very same thing his boss is working to end. It brings money into the state of Maryland and puts it into the hands of consumers. They then use this money at small businesses and mom-and-pop stores.
If Ricci’s boss gets his way, those small businesses and mom-and-pop stores will no longer need to hire people. Maryland consumers will have less money to spend. Everyone loses.