UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

Can other states extend pandemic payments like Maryland has done?

Maryland will continue to pay federal unemployment benefits for 10 more days while a temporary restraining order is in place after its appeal was denied.

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Can other states extend pandemic payments like Maryland has done?
FREDERIC J. BROWN AFP

Lawsuits have been filed in four of the 26 states that decided to end federal unemployment programs before they expire 6 September. So far, judges in Indiana and Maryland have placed temporary restraining orders on those states ordering them to continue the payments.

Both Maryland and Indiana have appealed the court decisions. Maryland announced upon its appeal being denied by the state's top court that it will comply continuing enhanced unemployment payments until 13 July when the restraining order expires. Indiana so far has not complied with the injunction against the state stopping the federal out of work assistance while it awaits a hearing on its appeal. In an email to the IndyStar the Department of Workforce Development said that it “is determining how to proceed because the federal programs in Indiana no longer exist after their termination on June 19.”

Will other states be forced to continue enhanced unemployment compensation?

Governors in 26 states made the decision to end the pandemic unemployment benefits claiming that they were disincentivizing workers laid off due to the covid-19 pandemic from returning to work. The governors, all but one Republicans, cited labor shortages while an abundance of job openings were available. However, the workers in the four states that have sued allege that their state governors overstepped their legal authority in ceasing the payments.

According to Andrew Stettner, an unemployment insurance expert with the Century Foundation “many states have similar state law provisions that could be brought up in court," he told Yahoo Money. Marion Superior Court Judge John Hanly wrote that there was a "preponderance of evidence" to demonstrate Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb violated state law when he ordered his state to stop payment of federal benefits starting 19 June. Indiana state law requires that “all available federal insurance benefits to citizens" must be procured.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill wrote that it appeared Maryland Governor Larry Hogan didn’t have the authority to end the enhanced unemployment benefits early. Furthermore, he noted that the pandemic’s affect had been “universal” but that stories of economic hardship shared by plaintiffs showed “the impact of the pandemic has been cruelly uneven.”

Stettner commenting on the two decisions told CBS "The judges were sympathetic that there was a midway change in this approval of benefits.” Adding "In both cases, the judges were like, 'It's a cruel thing to do given what the statutes state, and it's 100% federal money."

Texas and Ohio are still awaiting decisions

Attorneys Marc Dann and Brian Flick of DannLaw sued Governor Mike DeWine and Matt Damschroder, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services on Tuesday. Brian Flick noted in a press release that DeWine and Damschroder’s decision to terminate the federal unemployment benefits early was “callous and politically-motivated.” Adding that decision jeopardizes “the personal and financial well-being of Ohioans who are struggling to recover from the pandemic.” They point out that Ohio’s statutory language is similar to Indiana’s where it relates to the state’s obligation to protect the interests of its residents.

In Texas, Travis County District Judge Dustin Howell denied the temporary restraining order requested by attorney David Sibley over concerns that the litigants didn’t have standing but that perhaps standing would exist with the Texas Workforce Commission. Sibley intends to file an injunction to reinstate unemployment payments which ended 26 June for around one million Texans.