The Indiana Appeals Court sided with Gov. Eric Holcomb that the state can stop the extra payments provided by the federal government to unemployed workers.
The ruling issued Aug. 17 by Judge James Kirsch on behalf of the Court of Appeals in Case No. 21A-PL-1268 overturns a June 25 decision by a Marion County judge that the federal unemployment benefits, which restarted July 14, must continue in Indiana.
The motion for an injunction had been filed against Holcomb and Frederick Payne, commissioner of Workforce Development by individuals identified by their initials and described as workers and Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis. Holcomb had announced in May that the state would be canceling the extra $300 unemployment benefit effective June 19 in an effort to boost labor participation, a move that may have pushed some workers off unemployment and back into a job search.
The money, which also provided benefits to those who otherwise would be ineligible (independent contractors, the self-employed, and gig workers) and extended compensation past the regular 26 weeks of state-provided benefits, comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act as a way of helping workers affected by the mass layoffs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that began in March 2020. Participation by the states is voluntary, and the governors can choose to withdraw from the programs with the necessary notice to the U.S. Department of Labor. The newest deadline for the federal programs to expire is Sept. 6.
The plaintiffs said that without the extra benefits they would be unable to pay rent, utilities and necessary living expenses and medical care, according to the Marion County judge’s order granting a preliminary injunction on their motion, which was appealed.
Kirsch said in the Appeals Court’s decision overturning the Monroe County court decision, “But utilizing the same system to distribute the CARES Act benefits is not evidence that Congress intended to change or amend the traditional UI (unemployment insurance) scheme through the CARES Act. The CARES Act is intended to be temporary, provides different benefits to more types of people and for different amounts of time, and serves as a supplement to traditional UI benefits during an unprecedented pandemic.
“Because we find that Indiana Code section 22-4-37-1 does not require participation in the CARES Act programs, the State’s decision to terminate the benefits did not violate the statute.”
As a result, the plaintiffs haven’t shown that they would likely succeed at trial, he wrote.
In response to the Appeals Court ruling, Drew Anderson, spokesman for the Indiana Democratic Party, issued the following statement, “The back-and-forth court litigation about unemployment benefits continues to expose one glaring problem: Indiana Republicans created a ‘work more for less’ economy where Hoosiers are being forced to take low-paying jobs and work sometimes 80 hours just to make rent, not including other utilities. This falls on Indiana Republicans like Governor Eric Holcomb who refuse to address the state’s ‘F’ workforce grade and a track record of losing ‘good jobs’ in the state. It’s why Democrats are eager to pass the American Jobs Plan, because the transformative infrastructure investments would begin to solve the problems created by the Indiana Republican Party.”