Court dismisses case over early cut-off of COVID benefits

State

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Mike DeWine’s authority to end Ohio’s participation in a federal pandemic unemployment aid program ahead of the federal government’s 2021 deadline for stopping the payments.

The court’s unanimous decision on Tuesday called the case “moot” without any additional explanation.

At issue before the court was a weekly $300 federal payment for Ohioans to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The federal government ended that in September of last year, but DeWine stopped the payments two months earlier, saying the need was over.

DeWine followed the position of business groups that said the payments were making it difficult to recruit employees. More than two dozen other states, all led by Republican governors and legislatures, began blocking payments around the same time.

The court’s ruling is a victory for the state, said Bethany McCorkle, a spokesperson for Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

“Because the case was ruled moot, the case is over. No lower court awarded relief to the challengers, and now no court can,” she said.

The attorney representing unemployed Ohioans seeking the benefits disagreed, saying the dismissal did not overturn an earlier appeals court decision that said DeWine overstepped his authority.

Attorney Marc Dann said he believes the unemployment benefits authorized by Congress are still available and that he will continue to fight in the state’s lower courts for the benefits to be paid.

Ending the program early stopped about $900 million in Ohio payments.