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Workforce Development could resume pandemic unemployment benefits by Friday

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Department of Workforce Development said Monday it’s working to restart pandemic unemployment benefits after the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that the state government should do so, agreeing with an earlier court ruling.

Workforce Development said in an email from a spokesman that the department could resume the federal add-on benefits as early as Friday.

“Since the initial trial court order, DWD has been working to restart the federal pandemic benefits that are at issue in the lawsuit. This work continues with an estimated restart date of Friday, July 16, 2021,” said the email from Scott Olson, director of media for the Department of Workforce Development.

Earlier Monday, the state Court of Appeals denied a request from the state government to stay a preliminary injunction calling for Indiana to resume expanded federal unemployment benefits of $300 a week. The state government could next call on the Indiana Supreme Court to consider the preliminary injunction.

Gov. Eric Holcomb issued this statement late Monday afternoon: “We acknowledge the court of appeals decision today. Notwithstanding, the Department of Workforce Development will continue to work with the U.S. Department of Labor on finalizing the pandemic unemployment insurance benefits to comply with the judge’s order.”

Also on Monday, a special judge was appointed in the case originally filed in Marion County. Marc Rothenburg, the Marion Superior Court 7 judge, will take over the case for Judge John Hanley of Marion Superior Court 11, according to a notice from Myla Eldridge, the county clerk of the court.

In May, Holcomb announced that all federally funded unemployment insurance programs would end June 19. The federal benefits were initially designed through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law in March 2020 by President Donald Trump, to continue through Sept. 6.

In June, about 230,000 Indiana residents were receiving unemployment benefits, according to The Century Foundation. Some 177,000 were left without any jobless payments, and the rest lost the $300 federal weekly boost.

Holcomb and other Republican governors in other states cited workforce shortages and the improving economy as the reasons behind their decisions to end the benefits. Holcomb also had told News 8 that business owners had indicated to him that they had more job openings than they could find people to fill.

Here’s what happened to lead to this point:

Five workers and the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis filed a lawsuit in mid-June in a Marion County court that argued continuing to withhold the payments deprives the workers of “the immediate payments they need to avoid financial crises including eviction and inability to pay for necessities.”

On June 25, Judge Hanley of called for a temporary reinstatement of the federal benefits. The judge found that by rejecting federal benefits, the state is violating Indiana law. He also said the workers and the Concerned Clergy had shown a “reasonable likelihood of success” in winning their lawsuit.

On June 26, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office filed a motion that asked the Indiana Court of Appeals to quickly stay the Marion County judge’s order. In the meantime, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development has not reinstated the $300-per-week pandemic unemployment payments.