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Unemployment benefits lawsuit in Florida: why has the judge denied its restoration?

The Florida judge ruled against the lawsuit demanding a resumption of the extended unemployment benefits, meaning an end to all payments.

Healthcare workers at a 24-hour drive-thru site set up by Miami-Dade and Nomi Health in Tropical Park administer COVID-19 tests on August 30, 2021 in Miami, Florida.
Joe RaedleAFP

Leon County Circuit Judge Layne Smith denied a temporary injunction against the state on Monday. “Ultimately, Gov. DeSantis' strategy to promote reemployment by ending Florida’s participation in the FPUC program is a political issue that the voters can approve or reject at the ballot box,” Smith said in his ruling.

If the lawsuit was successful, then the $300 unemployment benefit would have resumed, but the state would not  have needed to pay the payments that had been with held since the Floridian Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) terminated its agreement with the Department of Labor.

The plaintiffs' attorneys had argued against this, saying retroactive payments would have to form some of the settlement. The ruling of the judge defeats these hopes. The extra unemployment payments are ending federally on September 6.

The Florida lawsuit was not in isolation

Unemployed workers in Florida had followed those in other states, including Indiana, Maryland, and Texas, by filing a class-action lawsuit to reinstate federal unemployment benefits. On Tuesday, a Missouri court ruled against the lawsuit from workers in the state.

The Florida DEO issued a statement after the ruling:

“The court ruling issued today affirms that the State of Florida’s successful Return to Work Initiative and subsequent withdrawing participation from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program was the right decision legally and has proven to increase employment and workforce participation. Gov. DeSantis has always been a champion for working Floridians and Florida’s business community."

There could still be an appeal against the ruling.

Related news:

Why did Florida end the payments early?

Florida was one of 26 states that chose to end the extra unemployment benefits back in June.

Lawmakers argued that the continuation of extra benefits was discouraging people from returning to the workplace, but recent data from the July jobs report showed the states which ended payments early actually had a slower rate of jobs take up compared to those who continued it.

Researchers at Columbia University, Harvard University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the University of Toronto published a paper to show the effect of cutting benefits has had on state economies.

For workers in states where benefits were cut, only one out of eight workers who lost unemployment benefits found a new job. The group noted a “modest” increase in the probability that a worker who had lost benefits would find a job more quickly.

Since May, states that have maintained the benefits have seen a decrease in unemployment of around 0.21%, while those that chose to end them saw a decrease of around half as much, 0.12%.