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The ruling is the latest development in a lawsuit over Gov. Eric Holcomb’s decision to prematurely curtail the state’s participation in the expanded benefits. More than two dozen states have made similar moves.
A judge in Marion County, Indiana, ruled Friday that the state must continue to pay federal unemployment benefits, temporarily pausing an order from Gov. Eric Holcomb to stop the additional $300 weekly payments.
“The benefits at issue are instrumental in allowing Hoosiers to regain financial stability at an individual level while the state continues to face challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic during its return to normalcy,” Marion Superior Court Judge John Hanley wrote in his ruling. “Indiana law recognizes the importance 0f these benefits. Indiana law requires the state to accept these benefits.”
The ruling requires the state to continue to disperse the additional $300 weekly payments to unemployed residents, and to participate in additional programs enacted under the American Rescue Plan to expand unemployment benefits during the pandemic. The order will continue until the case works its way through the court system and receives “a final judgment on the merits,” Hanley wrote.
The order is the latest development in a lawsuit filed this month by four residents and the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, a nonprofit advocacy group, arguing that Holcomb’s decision to remove the state from the federal benefits program “violated the clear mandates 0f Indiana’s unemployment statute—to secure all rights and benefits available for unemployed individuals.”
Holcomb announced in May that the state would end the payments, noting that Indiana’s unemployment rate had fallen t0 3.9% even as hundreds of businesses continued to search for workers.
“There are help wanted signs posted all over Indiana, and while our economy took a hit last year, it is roaring like an Indy 500 race car engine now. I am hearing from multiple sector employers that they want and need to hire more Hoosiers to grow,” Holcomb said in a statement. “We have a myriad of work options in every region of our state with many more coming online every week.”
Holcomb also reinstated a requirement that state residents must prove they are actively seeking work in order to qualify for unemployment benefits, the statement said.
Governors in more than two dozen states have made similar moves in recent months, curtailing expanded unemployment benefits created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act in hopes of incentivizing unemployed residents to return to work. The federal benefits were extended under the American Rescue Plan until Sept. 6. Lawsuits like the one in Indiana are underway in several of those states, including Maryland and Texas.
Holcomb’s office said Friday that the governor would appeal the ruling, telling the IndyStar that "the state of Indiana took the appropriate steps to terminate its participation in (the) federal pandemic unemployment program.”
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.