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DWD: Stay tuned for federal unemployment benefits put in question by judge

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Confusion over federal expanded unemployment benefits in Indiana: The payments are not going out, despite a Marion County judge’s order, and the state plans to keep fighting the payments in court.

Indiana opted out of the federal CARES Act unemployment program more than a week ago. The program had added $300 a week on top of existing state benefits.

News 8 learned that turning the program back on isn’t as easy as throwing a switch. 

For those trying to file for unemployment, the federal pandemic benefits are not an option. And payments under the program are not going out, even though a Marion County judge ordered the program to continue last Friday.  

As of last count, the state of Indiana has distributed more than $8 billion to 870,000 unemployed Hoosiers since the start of the pandemic. According to the Department of Workforce Development, 80% of the money is from federal programs.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb told I-Team 8 last week that the state has programs to retrain displaced workers. 

“We want to make sure they know there is an abundance of opportunity out there now in this new economy,” said Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Indiana Legal Services is representing a group of people who sued to the state to re-instate the federal benefits. They sent a statement:  

“The judge’s order is clear, the state has an obligation to reinstate benefits, and filing an appeal itself does not change this obligation. We are waiting to hear from the state how they plan to comply with the judge’s order. We recommend people waiting to file for these benefits keep a record of their work search history and watch for more updates.” 

I-Team 8 has learned the state has filed an official notice of appeal, asking a higher court to allow it to drop out of the expanded unemployment. 

The Department of Workforce Development declined to talk about the court’s ruling on camera and issued a statement.

The DWD is determining how to proceed because the federal programs no longer exist after their termination on June 19. There is no action that a claimant needs to take right now. Updated information will be provided on DWD’s website.  

According to Matt Will, professor at the University of Indianapolis, the judge’s ruling creates some confusion on how and when states are allowed to walk away from CARES Act money.

“But if you look at the rules provided by the federal government, the CARES Act gives states the option to extend unemployment benefits, so it is up to the state whether they want to do. There are a lot of different provisions. There are three major parts to it, and the one that is in question right now is the $300 per week, and that is up to the state, whether do that,” Will said.

The DWD can’t tell us if past claimants can just pick up where the left off or if they need to re-apply. No one can tell us when the program will be available.  

 The federal unemployment benefits program is scheduled to end in late September, and there is some question if the the governor’s appeal will be heard before the program ends.