- Unemployed workers in Arkansas are the latest to win back their federal benefits.
- They follow similar temporary legal victories in Maryland and Indiana, with thousands getting benefits restored.
- However, the lawsuits have won back benefits the Biden administration didn’t intervene to restore.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Unemployed workers in Arkansas are the latest group to win back their federal unemployment benefits after Gov. Asa Hutchinson moved to terminate them ahead of the September expiration.
In a Thursday ruling, Judge Herbert Wright said that, as a lawsuit against the state continues, the state must restart benefits for Arkansas residents. Wright wrote that plaintiffs “are likely to suffer harm” if the state doesn’t restore financial aid and that the “Court has serious doubts that the Governor and the Director of Workforce Services were acting within the scope of their duties.”
One of the five plaintiffs in the suit said they’ve been unable to get their prescribed medications, since they can’t afford them after the expiration of benefits. Another said they’ve been unable to pay medical bills for their daughter, who broke her arm, and cannot afford food.
The new ruling could impact just under 70,000 Arkansas residents, according to an estimate from Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow and jobless policy expert at the left-leaning Century Foundation. A little under 52,000 of those recipients were eligible to receive benefits under federal programs that expanded both eligibility and the number of weeks that jobless workers can collect checks. That means that those workers lost all benefits – not just the additional $300 week from the federal government – when Arkansas halted its participation in federal unemployment in June.
The temporary victory in Arkansas comes after workers in Indiana and Maryland successfully clawed back their benefits through similar preliminary injunctions. Suits against governors for ending benefits have popped up across the country, with 10 Florida residents filing a suit against Governor Ron DeSantis over ending the additional $300 weekly.
However, a similar suit in Ohio was just rejected, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The suits come after Biden’s Department of Labor essentially found that there’s no much it could do to step in and provide benefits for workers in states cutting them off. Instead, workers have been taking matters into their hands with lawsuits.
While many governors moved to end enhanced benefits in a proclaimed effort to get workers back into the workforce, preliminary evidence has shown that might not be the case. A study from Arindrajit Dube, an economics professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst, found that workers didn’t flock back to work after having benefits cut. And health concerns might still be keeping many at home: An analysis by economist Luke Pardue at payroll platform Gusto found that, of the states that cut benefits early, workers returned in states with higher vaccination rates – but didn’t come as back as quickly in less-vaccinated states.
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