For more than 25,000 Maryland residents, this holiday season was filled with the uncertainty of what’s to come after their extended Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) benefits ended.

They are among more than a million Americans who lost their federal unemployment benefits Dec. 28 because Congress did not renew the extended benefits created to buffer the impact of the Great Recession.

“Unfortunately when extended unemployment insurance expires, many Baltimore job seekers will fall further behind in their recovery from the nation’s economic downturn,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement.

Emergency Unemployment benefits pick up where state unemployment funds stop. In Maryland, the state allows individuals who are unemployed to receive benefits for 26 weeks. Thereafter, the federal government kicks in and provides those who were unable to find employment additional weeks of jobless benefits. Money is paid on a weekly basis—with the highest payout in Maryland being $380 per week. 

Ashley, 25, of West Baltimore—who declined to disclose her full name—was on unemployment for two years from 2010 through 2012. She told the AFRO she tried to find employment, but had no luck for the first year while unemployed.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do anything,” she told the AFRO. “What are people going to do? It was difficult for me to pay my bills without getting that money.”

She said once her unemployment benefits stopped, she was forced to leave her cozy two-bedroom apartment to move in with her family.

“I had to hurry up and find a job—just anywhere—because I needed the money,” she said.

The mayor said she hopes Congress will pass a retroactive extension of benefits when the lawmakers reconvene in January.

The EUC is a program that is 100 percent funded by the federal government for those who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits.

According to Rawlings-Blake, there are 5,000 people in Baltimore City and 25,000 residents who will be affected by not receiving their checks.

In an effort to help the unemployed, the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development will continue to assist job seekers to develop occupational skills, as well as to prepare for and connect to job opportunities. More than 20,000 unemployed and underemployed residents are served annually, where they access a variety of workforce development services that improve their skills and help them find jobs that lead to sustainable careers.

“It is important that residents use the Career Center Network services to improve their employability skills and best position themselves for sustainable careers,” she said.

Blair Adams

AFRO Staff Writer