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Businesses heave sigh of relief over unemployment fund — but hope for more

For the Maryland business community, Gov. Larry Hogan’s Wednesday announcement that over a quarter of the $3.9 billion in federal relief funds that had been allocated to the state would go into the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund came as a major relief.

Over $1.7 billion in unemployment benefits had been distributed from the fund since the pandemic’s onset in March, and business owners have been concerned that they will have to pay massive taxes in order to make up the difference, despite having also lost significant revenue themselves over the past few years.

Currently, the balance of the trust fund is around $54 million, not including the incoming federal funds.

Ahead of the General Assembly session, which will conclude next week, many business leaders said that finding a way to avoid this increase was among their top priorities for the session. Cailey Locklair, the president of the Maryland Retailers Association, was one of a coalition of business advocates who wrote to the governor and General Assembly leadership at the beginning of the session about the community’s top priorities.

“At the very top of that list was the unemployment insurance trust fund,” she recalled.

But Locklair isn’t certain this is the end of the business community’s worries about the fund. The $1.1 billion figure is still less than the $1.7 billion in benefits that have been distributed to unemployed people throughout the state over the past year. With no clear end to the pandemic in sight, it’s uncertain whether $1.1 billion will be enough to make the trust fund solvent.

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