Ohio Judge Rejects Bid to Reinstate $300 Federal Jobless Benefit

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
July 30, 2021 Updated: July 30, 2021

An Ohio judge on Thursday rejected a bid to reinstate the $300 supplemental federal pandemic jobless benefit that the state’s governor blamed for sidelining workers and decided to end early.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Holbrook on Thursday ruled against an effort by several Ohio plaintiffs to force the payout of the extra federal unemployment benefit, known as the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program.

In the ruling (pdf), Holbrook said his decision to deny plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction was “not one that can be taken lightly” but that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine acted within his authority when he opted out of the FPUC ahead of its scheduled lapse in September.

“The court is aware of, and sympathetic to, the thousands of Ohioans without work and in desperate need of any assistance available,” Holbrook wrote, but “the court simply cannot legislate from the bench and overlook the clear terms” of Ohio law.

Citing a labor crunch, DeWine in May announced Ohio would be ending its participation in the FPUC program on June 26, prompting a lawsuit.

Three Ohioans sued DeWine and the Director of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, also filing a request for a preliminary injunction that would have forced the continued payout of the federal benefit while the case winds its way through the courts.

But Holbrook said in his decision that the plaintiffs’ legal arguments were flawed.

“Simply put, because the clear and unambiguous language of [Ohio statutes] do not place an obligation on Governor DeWine to continue participation in the FPUC program, the Court finds plaintiffs cannot meet their burden of proving a substantial likelihood of success on the merits by clear and convincing evidence,” Holbrook noted.

DeWine and Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said in a statement they were pleased with the decision.

“We have heard over and over again from employers who can’t find workers to fill open positions, and this policy helps both employers and workers,” they said. “As a result of the tough decisions we have made, Ohio’s recovery is strong, unemployment claims are declining, and Ohio’s unemployment rate is below the national average.”

After surging to 16.4 percent in April 2020, the height of the pandemic lockdowns, Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.2 percent in June.

Around two dozen states have, like Ohio, decided to end their participation in the federal pandemic jobless boost, with governors nearly universally arguing that the extra benefit—which is over and above state unemployment compensation—discouraged workers from taking jobs and so hurt businesses.

While lawsuits have been filed in a number of states over the early opt-out, efforts to reinstate the $300 weekly boost have succeeded only in Indiana, Maryland, and—most recently—in Arkansas.

An Arkansas judge on Thursday ruled that FPUC benefits must resume in the state while a lawsuit works its way through the court system.

Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'