Marion County judge rules state must continue federal unemployment benefit payments

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INDIANAPOLIS — A Marion County judge has issued a preliminary injunction ordering Indiana to continue paying federal pandemic unemployment benefits.

This ruling comes after two groups filed a lawsuit against Governor Eric Holcomb and the Indiana Department of Workforce Development over the decision to end the $300 per week benefit.

Along with the $300 payments, this includes pandemic unemployment assistance, which applies to gig workers and others not typically covered, and pandemic emergency unemployment compensation, which extends state unemployment once they’ve been exhausted.

This is not the final ruling regarding the lawsuit; the unemployment benefits will continue at least until that decision is reached.

According to Jennifer Terry, staff attorney for Indiana Legal Services, which helped represent the plaintiffs, it’s not entirely clear how soon the final decision from the judge could come.

The president of the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, which was one of the plaintiffs on the lawsuit, said he’s “excited” about this ruling and what it means for those affected in his community.

“It lifts a lot of stress and burdens off of them that I’m sure many of them would have been concerned about, what they’re going to do with their next week,” Rev. David Greene, Sr. said. “We’ve seen as a result of COVID the number of people who are visiting food banks, food giveaways just trying to make ends meet.”

Terry said she’s also pleased with this decision, adding that it helps the other plaintiffs on the suit who were at risk of losing their unemployment benefits.

“It’s certainly very impactful for Hoosiers here that are receiving unemployment,” Terry said. “The state’s decision to terminate these benefits early impacted every single Hoosier that was receiving unemployment.”

This issue has divided Democrats and Republicans. Many on the left have expressed support for the judge’s decision.

“I welcome the ruling,” said State Sen. Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis), a member of the pensions and labor committee. “I think Hoosier families struggled through the pandemic. The governor’s decision to cut these benefits during a pandemic was, in my view, misguided and cruel.”

But many Republicans say they’re disappointed, arguing Hoosiers need to get back to work.

“I think to get our economy back to full steam ahead is getting everybody back to work that is able to work, and so I think it’s a negative as far as our economy, opening up our economy and moving on is concerned,” said State Sen. Phil Boots (R-Crawfordsville), who chairs the pensions and labor committee.

We’re still working to find out if Hoosiers will still receive this $300 benefit next week.

The below statement is from the Office of Gov. Holcomb:

“The state of Indiana took the appropriate steps to terminate its participation in [the] federal pandemic unemployment program. 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.”

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita plans to file an appeal, according to a statement from his office.

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