- Jobless workers in Indiana and Maryland racked up early court wins about restoring federal unemployment.
- “I think it certainly has the potential to start more cases,” one expert said of the litigation.
- A lawyer who brought a similar case in Ohio said he may even go after the state for damages.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Jobless workers in Ohio are the latest group to push back against Republican governors cutting off their federal benefits early – in court.
Federal benefits in the state wound down on June 26, months ahead of their scheduled expiration in September. Now, a new lawsuit representing three Ohio workers claims that the state is obligated to continue paying up.
The suit follows similar ones filed in Indiana and Maryland, both of which won temporary victories. In Indiana, firms argued that a similar law mandates the state procure all unemployment compensation conferred upon it, including compensation from amendments like those in the CARES Act. In other words, Republican governors might be trying to cancel extra unemployment from Biden’s stimulus, but it’s illegal.
The Ohio suit hinges on a specific part of state law that deals with the state’s responsibility to cooperate with the federal government on unemployment insurance – and whether it should “secure to this state and its citizens all advantages available.”
Former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann is now with DannLaw, one of the two firms representing plaintiffs in the case. He told Insider he believes the amendments to federal unemployment written into pandemic-era laws “are exactly the type of thing that it was the intention of the legislature that the governor is required – has a clear, legal duty – to accept and pass on to the folks that were represented.”
“I think it certainly has the potential to start more cases,” Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow and jobless policy expert at the left-leaning Century Foundation, said. “The legal argument made in Indiana was based on a set of components that were not unique to Indiana law.”
At least 400,000 jobless workers in Ohio are impacted by the additional $300 ending, according to an estimate from Stettner.
The three plaintiffs in the case say they won’t be able to pay their basic living expenses if all federal benefits are cut off early, including rent, food, and medications for pets and service animals.
But in Indiana, where a preliminary injunction was granted to temporarily halt the end of benefits, jobless workers may still face difficulty getting their money. The state’s Department of Workforce Development claims it can’t restore the benefits, HuffPost’s Arthur Delaney reported. It’s a situation that Labor Secretary Marty Walsh told Insider he’s keeping a close eye on.
But in Ohio, “it would be real easy to get it restarted and, frankly, if they don’t, then we’ll look at bringing some sort of a damage action against the state to recover what they should have gotten,” Dann said.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has said he’s planning to appeal the court’s 10-day injunction ordering the state to continue dispensing federal jobless benefits.
“Why wouldn’t a state that cares about the people that live in it, and who has a statutory obligation to pass on benefits that are available under federal law, why wouldn’t they do it?” Dann said.