Judge rules Indiana must continue extra federal unemployment benefits

Finding Indiana state law requires the state to accept the federally-funded enhanced unemployment benefits, a Marion County Court has granted plaintiffs’ request to require the state to resume $300 payments to Hoosiers who lost their jobs because of COVID-19.

Marion Superior Judge John Hanley granted the plaintiffs’ motion Friday for preliminary injunction. The state was ordered to notify the U.S. Department of Labor immediately that it will continue to participate in the enhanced unemployment benefits program as first established by the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act passed in March 2020.

Indiana Legal Services and Macey Sawson Hicks & Sauer filed the complaint on behalf of Indiana residents who have not been able to reenter the workforce and are dependent on the enhanced benefits. The argued Indiana Code section 22-4-37-1 mandates the state accept “all the rights and benefits” offered by the federal government under 42 U.S.C.  §§ 1101, 1104 and 1105.

The court agreed.

“The injunction is in the public interest because it is articulated public policy interest in Ind. Code § 22-4-1-1 and the benefits at issue are instrumental in allowing Hoosiers to regain financial stability at an individual level while the State continues to face challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic during its return to normalcy,” Hanley wrote. “Indiana law recognizes the importance of these benefits. Indiana law requires the State to accept these benefits.”

Indiana, which is one of 25 states that opting out of the enhanced benefits, was scheduled to stop the extra payments June 19. Holcomb said Hoosier workers did not need the money because the state’s economy had recovered and jobs are available.

However, plaintiffs in their lawsuit  disputed the governor’s assertion, pointing out the number of jobs available are dwarfed by the number of unemployed. Also the plaintiffs themselves contend they are prevented from working because of chronic health conditions, child care issues and housing instability.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys Jennifer Terry of ILS and Jeffrey Macey of Macey Swanson applauded the court’s decision on their motion for a preliminary injunction.

“Continuing the expanded unemployment benefits is meaningful to our clients and Hoosiers across the state who have relied on this assistance throughout the pandemic,” Terry and Macey said in a joint statement. “While there will be further legal proceedings in this case, we look forward to the state following the judge’s orders to reinstate the benefits for so many in need right now.”

Many businesses blame the extra $300 weekly payment and the ease of obtaining unemployment benefits with making it more difficult to fill job openings. Republican legislative leaders additionally urged Holcomb to withdraw Indiana from those federal programs.

“The state of Indiana took the appropriate steps to terminate its participation in federal pandemic unemployment program. The agreement ended on June 19,” the governor’s office said in a statement Friday, adding that Holcomb and the state’s Workforce Development office “will discuss an immediate appeal of the judge’s order with the Attorney General.”

The $300 payments have more than doubled Indiana’s average $280 weekly unemployment payment, which has a maximum of $390 a week, according to the state Department of Workforce Development. The changes could cut off or reduce unemployment benefits to more than 220,000 people in the state.

Holcomb said jobs are available around the state and pointed to Indiana’s 3.9% unemployment rate for April, which was down from the pandemic peak of 16.9% a year earlier. Ending the benefits early will also help Indiana businesses find and hire qualified employees for thousands of open positions, he said.

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35 thoughts on “Judge rules Indiana must continue extra federal unemployment benefits

  1. There are so many jobs available and this seams rediculous when businesses can not fill jobs. I see restaurants better are close constantly and there’s a sign up that says does not have enough help. American Airlines announced they canceled 1200 flights because they didn’t have enough staff.

    America needs to go back to work and people need to get jobs and work.

    My husband‘s business has had to close four times in the past two months because he doesn’t have enough help. I absolutely do not agree with this decision at all. This is very disappointing.

    1. I agree with you Melissa. I wish the federal government would listen to business owners who are struggling to find help.

  2. Judge needs to come work for me and install these floors we cant get done because many of our workers are setting home collecting free money. And doing side jobs for cash and just goofing off instead of putting in a full 40 and paying taxes. B S Judge.
    You know better.

    1. Plus rent assistance, stimulus money x 2, subsidized health benefits, and much more.

  3. What is wrong with our society? As a business owner, I am struggling because people don’t want to work. You want me to pay better wages? OK, how do I do that when I can’t get employees to fulfill the orders we have? $20 hour job for certain jobs require increased item costs = higher sales cost = high consumer spending = lower value of your paycheck. Basic economics. There is a place for all wage levels.

    I can sympathize with parents that have no access to child care, however, camps are available with after care and can be little or no cost if your income supports that need. What did you do in past summers or is this just another summer break?

    Appeal this and lets get our State ahead of the rest. We are losing business and the ability to pay higher wages.

    By the way, we lost a significant amount of money last year. Where is our hand out? Restaurants got it, employees are getting it, how about businesses? Asking for all American Small Businesses that rely on steady business to be successful and to put food on the tables of our employees.

  4. PS I know someone, retired, worked part-time, few hours a week, earned about $5K a year for fun cash. Last year they made $15K on unemployment. Something is wrong with this picture.

  5. I wonder if he is a Democrat…Hmmmm…That’s a Bingo!!!

    From a 2018 article about Judge Hanley’s DUI arrest:

    “Hanley, who presides over Civil Court Room 11, had been the leading candidate to become the Superior Court’s presiding judge when control of the executive committee gets handed to the Democrats in January.”

    Everything is totally partisan. Everything should be appealed to a court where Democratic judges aren’t in power (Thank God for lifetime appointments of Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barret.) The Democrats are effing NUTS!

  6. The wealth gap in this country has widened for years, the Trump tax cuts only made it worse. We should spend more time being upset at the very rich who are getting a free ride at others expense than railing at people at the bottom of the economic ladder who might get an extra $300 per week. Shame on the apologists for the free riding wealthy. Good for Judge Hanley, who told the state to follow the law. Nothing remarkable about that folks.

    1. So you are collecting a free ride? Nothing to do with left, right, rich or poor. It’s about receiving money that was designed to support when no jobs were available. The State has opened up, time to get back to work. No more hand outs.

    2. How do the rich stay rich….by working, investing, and employing others in their businesses. How do the poor stay poor…not working, sitting at home collecting $300 unemployment checks. Um….which group benefits society and which group is a drain on resources……which group is self-sufficient and which group is dependent on others?

      The American Way to success is not built on the latter path…..

  7. I bet it would be really hard to get the Republican supermajority and Republican governor to change the law on the books. Legislation rather than appealing via the courts.

  8. Appeal. People need to get off the dole and get back to work. Holcomb and the majority of people on this thread are right. Jerry, on the other hand….the way you get off of the bottom of the economic ladder is to get a job and work your way up the ladder. The only people “railing,” are those who are working hard and want our economy back in shape. We’re tired of supporting those who aren’t doing their part. Plenty of jobs out there. Time for everyone to get to work.

  9. If child care and other costs to go to work amount to more than or most of your wages, you can’t AFFORD to go to work. It’s basic math. Who would want an employee who couldn’t make that financial judgement? Nevertheless, the judge didn’t base his decision on the math, but on the law which is what he’s SUPPOSED to do.

    1. Exactly this.

      .

      If all these “employers” commenting here raised wages, they would miraculously find workers. My local Menards put up big signs advertising $15/hour and up to start. They seem to have enough people to run their business.

  10. Ridiculous! Let’s continue to give free money for not doing anything while our community suffers. You offer them the easy way out, the people are going to take it! Hey, while we are at it, let’s give them free housing and food! Get back to work, your vacation is over!!!!!

  11. GO TO WORK!!!
    Making a blanket statement here (but I’m likely correct) people that support the “free money train” only sign the backs of paychecks. NEVER been responsible for creating jobs and running a business. Includes the judge in this case. SO MANY UNFILLED jobs are the new virus continuing to crush our lives and country. Have some dignity, self respect, grow a pair and get an EFFIN’ JOB.

  12. Agreed, and definitely agree with William K. They should call themselves back into special session (ironic, or Holcomb should, though he won’t) and change the laws cited immediately.

    1. No, the judge collects a paycheck for reading the plain text of Indiana law and applying it to cases.

      .

      If you don’t like the law, fire your legislators and governor.

  13. The State of Indiana has decoupled from the federal rule that relates to current unemployment [PUA included] not subject to federal tax. The State Assembly met and determined this ruling to be effective on or around 4/30/21; when many tax returns were already filed. Curious why the State is imposing tax on funds the government has provided Indiana when the federal government is not taxing it at all. Many people are receiving nasty tax due notices from the state that includes penalty and interest!
    Judge Hanley, this requires your further research. People need to find some integrity and return to work. There are plenty of open positions, and accommodates for children, to meet the various needs of those sitting at home.

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