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BPAA State Policy Update - June 4, 2021

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COVID-19 Updates and Tracking


COVID Unemployment Updates


  • Half of U.S. states to end Biden-backed pandemic unemployment early Half of U.S. states, all of them led by Republican governors, are cutting off billions of dollars in unemployment benefits for residents, rebuffing a key part of President Joe Biden’s response to the coronavirus recession. The payments - an extra $300 per week from the federal government to unemployment recipients because of the pandemic - have become part of a political battle in Washington over how to best guide the country out of an economic downturn.
    • Maryland on Tuesday became the 25th state to announce it would stop the $300-per-week benefits before the federal program lapses in September. Governor Larry Hogan said that while the program gave “important temporary relief” during the pandemic, it was no longer needed now that “vaccines and jobs ... are in good supply.” Read more here at Reuters to see the chart.


  • Maryland to end $300 enhanced unemployment benefits, add work search requirement Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced that the state will end the $300 additional unemployment benefit payments next month. The state will also reinstate work search requirements. Just two weeks ago, Gov. Hogan said that Maryland would continue those payments. “Our health and economic recovery continues to outpace the nation, and we have reached the benchmark set by President Biden of vaccinating 70% of adults,” said Governor Hogan in a news release. “While these federal programs provided important temporary relief, vaccines and jobs are now in good supply. And we have a critical problem where businesses across our state are trying to hire more people, but many are facing severe worker shortages. After 12 consecutive months of job growth, we look forward to getting more Marylanders back to work.” Read more here.


  • Md. Democrats slam Hogan’s decision to end expanded unemployment benefits, look to block action Alarmed at the prospect that needy families will be hurt by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s decision to end supplemental unemployment benefits in early July, members of the General Assembly scrambled on Wednesday to blunt — and perhaps block — his action. Legislative leaders sought advice from Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) about a possible special session — and a powerful committee chairman said he will introduce legislation to advance the effective date of Maryland’s $15-per-hour minimum wage law. The flurry of activity was set in motion by Hogan’s decision to end the $300-per-week supplemental unemployment insurance benefit that some Marylanders have been collecting, effective July 3. Read more here.


  • California unemployment claims rise, now 67% above normal Unemployment claims in California have risen to their worst levels in more than a month and are now far above the amount that was typical before the start of coronavirus-linked business shutdowns, the federal government reported Thursday. California workers filed 74,625 initial claims for unemployment benefits during the week that ended on May 29, an increase of 3,750 compared with the week ending on May 22, when workers filed 71,055 jobless claims, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Read more here at MercuryNews.


Labor Updates


  • Maryland Virus Workplace Safety, Paid Leave Bill to Become Law Maryland legislation requiring creation of Covid-19 workplace safety rules will become law without the signature of Gov. Larry Hogan (R), but the extent of its impact depends partly on how long the governor’s state of emergency declaration remains in place. The measure, H.B. 581, requires the state’s occupational safety agency to implement an emergency temporary standard in response to the pandemic—mirroring the action of neighboring Virginia. Read More at Bloomberg


  • Scott reups incentives for workers who move to Vermont, signs off on higher unemployment benefits Vermont will continue to offer financial reimbursements to people who move to Vermont for a job and will boost benefits for unemployed workers. The legislation was signed late Tuesday by Gov. Phil Scott. The bill, S.62, extends a workforce development incentive program that has received widespread recognition and has also been criticized as an ineffective and wasteful marketing ploy. The legislation signed by the governor Tuesday includes $630,000 to attract people to the state but calls for a study to see if the program actually accomplishes its goal. Read more here.


  • ALERT: Pa. business owners join Wolf in push to raise 'embarrassingly low' minimum wage to $15 Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday was joined by business owners and Democratic lawmakers in his latest push for a higher minimum wage in Pennsylvania. Wolf has frequently said a higher wage would be a win for workers and businesses, proposing to raise it to $15 an hour in 2027. "Increasing the minimum wage puts more money into the pockets of workers, which gives local businesses more customers," he said. "Boosting wages also increases productivity and decreases turnover." Read more here.


  • $15 minimum wage bill passes R.I. House The Rhode Island House of Representatives passed legislation which would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, in a vote of 58 to 16 May 6. The bill now moves to the Senate, which passed matching legislation in February. Either the House bill or the Senate’s companion will have to pass in the other’s chambers before making its way to Gov. Dan McKee’s desk to become law. The legislation would raise the current $11.50 minimum wage in four stages, every January 1 from 2022 to 2025. These adjustments resemble those of Connecticut and Massachusetts, though both states will reach a $15 minimum wage by 2023, two years before the date proposed by the R.I. bill, State Representative David Bennett, who introduced the bill, told The Herald. Read more at Brown Daily Herald.


  • Amended tipped wage bill heads for House vote next week New Hampshire’s tipped minimum wage won’t be frozen at $3.27 an hour, but it will be untethered from the state minimum wage, if the House Labor Committee version of SB 137 becomes law. This could mean good news or bad news for tipped workers, depending on what the federal government does with its minimum wage. Officially, the New Hampshire has no minimum wage – the only Northeastern state without one. As a result, the state defaults to the federal minimum of $7.25. The lowest wage among the adjoining states is Vermont, at $11.75. Massachusetts has the highest minimum at $13.50. Read more here at NHBR.


  • Utah lawmakers reject a bill to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour Republicans voted against raising the minimum wage Thursday, killing two bills that would have given raises to tipped employees who make $2.13 an hour in wages and other workers who can’t afford rent without working more than a full-time job, according to data shared by advocates. House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, proposed bumping up the baseline salary from $7.25 an hour to $12 an hour by July 2022. Tipped workers would have gotten more than a $1-an-hour bump under a separate bill that Republicans on a House labor committee also voted against. Read more here.
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