Justices dismissed the case as “moot.” Without a court order requiring the federal government to keep these additional unemployment benefits, it was unclear if the money still existed.
“Because the case was ruled moot, the case is over. No lower court awarded relief to the challengers, and now no court can. This is a victory for the state,” Bethany McCorkle, spokeswoman for Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said.
When COVID-19 began Congress approved an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits. In December of 2020, the government reduced the amount to $300 weekly.
In June 2021, DeWine halted the extra federal unemployment benefits. Business groups said the weekly payment was making it challenging to recruit employees.
“When this program was put in place, it was a lifeline for many Americans at a time when the only weapon we had in fighting the virus was to slow its spread through social distancing, masking, and sanitization. That is no longer the case,” DeWine said.
Several unemployed workers sued arguing DeWine didn’t have the authority to cut off benefits that the federal government offered to Ohioans through September 6th, 2021.
Judge Michael Holbrook of Franklin County Common Please Court originally ruled that DeWine had the authority to stop the payments. The 10th District Court of Appeals overturned that decision, requesting that Holbrook consider additional factors. However, Holbrook could not proceed as the state had appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.
“I so badly want to issue the order but I am bound by the rules and I do not have the authority to do so. It’s with the Supreme Court now,” Holbrook said.
Chief Deputy Solicitor Michal Hendershot noted that due to it being unknown from the Department of Labor if the unemployment benefit money is still there or not. The legal consequences of the 10th District’s ruling are still something that could potentially be reversed.
Former Attorney General Marc Dann, who represented Ohioans suing for benefits, said that they would continue to fight for Ohioans pursuing benefits.
“These are not pawns on a political chessboard. This involved 200,000 people who are struggling every day to solve the kinds of problems that all of us have to solve,” Dann said.
Ending the program early stopped about $900 million in Ohio payments.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Ohio Supreme Court” by Sixflashphoto. CC BY-SA 4.0.