Florida workers lose reinstatement of jobless benefits as federal expiration looms

Florida workers lose reinstatement of jobless benefits as federal expiration looms

September 1, 2021

A Florida judge denied a motion to temporarily reinstate the extra $300 in weekly unemployment benefits that were terminated prematurely this summer. The loss comes as the federal unemployment programs are set to expire on September 6.

Workers in Florida alleged that the cancellation of the additional federal benefits went against state law, but the court ruled this week that the governor was within his authority to make the decision.

"This decision belongs solely to the state's Chief Executive," Judge Layne Smith wrote in the order. "Ultimately, Governor DeSantis's strategy to promote reemployment by ending Florida's participation in the FPUC program is a political issue that the voters can approve or reject at the ballot box."

In all, 26 states have cut off some or all of the pandemic-era unemployment aid before the federal expiration to combat rising concerns over labor shortages. In response, workers in 15 states have filed lawsuits over the premature end to those benefits — with New Hampshire the latest this week.

The New Hampshire lawsuit alleges that the state's Department of Employment Security didn't have the discretion to opt out of the federal programs earlier.

So far, workers who filed lawsuits in their states have found mixed success.

Lawsuits in Arkansas, Maryland, and Oklahoma have been successful and benefits have been reinstated — in some cases, only temporarily. But the cases in Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and now Florida have been denied by judges.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a lower court's ruling requiring Gov. Eric Holcomb to provide federal pandemic benefits. The appeals court ruled that state law doesn’t require participation in federal programs and that the lower court "abused its discretion" when previously granting a preliminary injunction.

“Because we find that Indiana [law] does not require participation in the CARES Act programs, the state’s decision to terminate the benefits did not violate the statute,” Judge James Kirsch wrote.

Around 4 million workers were affected by the early cancellation of benefits in those 26 states, according to estimates by the Century Foundation.

Another approximately 7.5 million unemployed workers will be left with no benefits at the end of this week, according to an analysis by the Century Foundation. The last payment of the pandemic unemployment benefits — which officially expire on September 6 — will be sent out on Saturday or Sunday depending on the state.

The expiration affects workers relying on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program — a program for workers who don’t qualify for regular unemployment insurance — the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) — a program that extends the duration of the unemployment benefit.

Denitsa is a writer for Yahoo Finance and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @denitsa_tsekova

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