State tells court enhanced benefits harming state’s economy, appeals reinstatement order

Echoing Gov. Eric Holcomb, the state of Indiana is telling the Indiana Court of Appeals that providing enhanced federal unemployment benefits to jobless Hoosiers is harming the state’s economic recovery because the extra money is enabling some to stay out of the workforce.

The Indiana Attorney General’s Office filed a brief Monday in support of its interlocutory appeal in Eric Holcomb, et al. v. T.L. et al., 20A-PL-1268.

After the Marion Superior Court ordered the state to reinstate the enhanced unemployment benefits that were offered in response to the COVID-related economic downturn, the governor unsuccessfully sought a stay.

Now, the state is seeking to have the order overturned.

“The Governor made a quintessential policy determination that continued participation in federal CARES Act programs was now harming Indiana’s economy more than those programs were benefitting it,” the brief argues. “Yet a single trial judge determined that the Governor’s policy determination was unlawful … .”

In their lawsuit filed in June, the plaintiffs assert that Indiana Code § 22-4-37-1 mandates that the state accept all  unemployment benefits offered by the federal government. Holcomb’s decision to stop accepting the extra jobless support offered through the CARES program violated a law that is unique to the Hoosier State, they argued.

However, Indiana countered that the statute does not impose a mandatory duty on the state.

In particular, Indiana argues the statute does not require the state to secure all available benefits available under federal law for Hoosier employers and employees.

Moreover, Indiana contends the statute cannot mandate that the state accept the enhanced benefits because that money is offered as part of the CARES Act programs, which are independent of the traditional federal-state unemployment insurance program.

Plaintiffs, who claim they are having trouble reentering the workforce because of medical or child care issues, outlined in their complaint the harms they say they are suffering without the extra federal money. But Indiana maintains the harm caused by providing the enhanced benefits is greater.

“The trial court’s injunction cancels the economic benefits expected from addressing the labor shortage now,” Indiana argues in its brief. “It interferes with the State’s recovery efforts by delaying the termination of CARES Act benefits for several months until this lawsuit is resolved or the CARES Act programs expire. In the meantime, Indiana’s economy is hindered as it awaits the return of many to its workforce.”

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