Indiana Must Reinstate Federal Unemployment Benefits, Judge Rules

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Reporter
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
June 29, 2021 Updated: June 29, 2021

An Indiana judge on Friday ordered that the state must continue the expanded federal unemployment benefits that were implemented during last year’s pandemic relief efforts, saying that ending the funds ahead of their expiration date could cause “irreparable harm” to residents who are unable to pay for daily necessities.

Marion County Superior Court Judge John Hanley granted the preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by two legal organizations, which argued that Indiana law requires the state to procure federal insurance benefits to its residents and said the governor’s actions to end the benefits would hurt thousands of people.

“Indiana should notify the U.S. Department of Labor immediately of its continued participation in the CARES Act programs pending further action by this Court,” Hanley wrote.

The judge said “a preponderance of evidence” suggests that ending the unemployment payments prematurely could cause hardship and violate Indiana law.

“A loss of housing or medical care and the inability to provide food, shelter and adequate childcare for a family constitute irreparable harm pending resolution of this cause of action and are not adequately compensable by an award of damages,” Hanley wrote in his ruling.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, had announced last month that the state would pull out of the federal government’s COVID-19 unemployment program by June 19.

Dozens of states, the majority of which are run by Republican governors, are opting out of the additional federal unemployment benefits this summer before funding for the program expires on Sept. 6. Republicans argue that the $300 weekly extra payments under President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan have discouraged people from returning to the workforce and have become a drag on the recovery.

Responding to pleas from businesses to encourage Americans to return to work, Republican leaders from the states of Arkansas, Georgia, Montana, and South Carolina also said recently that they will be slashing the extended weekly unemployment benefits. Other states that have announced similar moves include Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming.

Biden, who has pushed back against the notion that unemployment compensation is discouraging people from taking jobs, said on June 4 that it’s reasonable for the benefits to terminate in line with their scheduled date.

“The temporary boost in unemployment benefits … helped people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are still maybe in the process of getting vaccinated, but it’s going to expire in 90 days,” Biden said. “That makes sense.”

The American Action Forum, a center-right policy institute, said in a February report that 37 percent of workers could make more on unemployment at the $300 level than they would earn if they returned to work.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office told CBS News that it plans to appeal the judge’s ruling.

“The state of Indiana took the appropriate steps to terminate its participation in federal pandemic unemployment program,” the Republican governor’s office said in a statement. “The agreement ended on June 19. The Governor and Department of Workforce Development will discuss an immediate appeal of the judge’s order with the Attorney General.”

The Epoch Times has contacted the governor’s office for additional comment.

Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Reporter
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.