The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, August 18, 2021 1:00 am

State cleared to not pay benefits

Judge says plan to end CARES participation is legal

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Court of Appeals on Tuesday sided with the state, saying it isn't required to pay extra pandemic unemployment benefits.

Despite the ruling, the benefits will continue until they expire under federal rules Sept. 4, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. That's because the program requires a 30-day notice.

Gov. Eric Holcomb opted out of the federal benefits program in June, but Hoosiers sued and a trial judge issued a preliminary injunction requiring the unemployment aid to continue.

The benefits resumed in July – including the extra $300 a week and payments for gig workers and contractors who otherwise would be ineligible.

An Indiana Court of Appeals panel reversed that injunction Tuesday in a 3-0 vote.

“Because we find that Indiana Code ... does not require participation in the CARES Act programs, the state's decision to terminate the benefits did not violate the statute. We, therefore, conclude that plaintiffs have not shown a reasonable likelihood of success at trial, and because the movant must prove each of the requirements to obtain a preliminary injunction, we hold that the trial court abused its discretion when it granted the plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction and enjoined defendants from withdrawing Indiana from the CARES Act benefit,” the ruling said.

Holcomb thanked the Court of Appeals for the decision.

“The state took the appropriate steps to terminate its participation in these optional federal pandemic unemployment programs,” he said, “and this ruling confirms that we had the legal authority to do so.”

Businesses have adapted, he said, and Indiana currently has more than 143,000 job openings.

“The Department of Workforce Development continues to work with the unemployed to connect them with resources they need to gain skills and be matched with employment,” Holcomb said.

Fred Payne, head of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, said in a July briefing that Hoosiers would not be forced to pay the benefits back if the state won.

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