Joint civil lawsuit filed against Governor Holcomb’s move to end extended unemployment benefits

Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — Two organizations, including a provider of free legal assistance, have filed a joint lawsuit against Governor Eric Holcomb’s move to end Indiana’s extended unemployment benefits on June 19.

Indiana Legal Services is filing the lawsuit in conjunction with Macey Swanson Hicks & Sauer law firm.

In a release, the joint civil lawsuit claimed that ending the benefits “would cause irreparable harm to individual clients and a group of local clergy named in the suit and, by default, all Hoosiers across the state. The legal challenge is based on Indiana law 22-4-37-1 that requires the state to procure all available federal insurance benefits to citizens.”

Jon Laramore, executive director of ILS, said, “These benefits have provided life-sustaining and crucial assistance to many Hoosiers during the pandemic.” He continued, “The legislature passed a law creating a right to these benefits, and we’re asking Governor Holcomb to follow the law.”

Governor Holcomb stated in an Indianapolis Star article that the COVID-related extended unemployment benefits were no longer needed because there are 116,000 jobs available.

ILS said a study by The Century Foundation contradicts the governor’s take, saying that cutting benefits would affect more than 286,000 people in Indiana — which is 170,000 more people than available jobs.

The study also found ending the benefits would result in a forfeiture of $1.5 billion by the state that otherwise would’ve been spent locally on rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, and more to boost our economy.

“This pandemic has been tough on everyone and we’re not out of the woods yet. A saving grace for many of my clients has been the expanded unemployment benefits offered by the federal government—they’ve provided a lifeline while Hoosiers recover from the unprecedented pandemic,” said Jeffrey Macey, partner at Macey Swanson Hicks & Sauer and co-counsel for the case.

“Our firm is extremely gratified to be able to assist Indiana Legal Services and the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis in preserving these benefits for our neighbors in need.”

ILS and Macey Swanson Hicks & Sauer say while the Indiana Department of Workforce Development reported the April unemployment rate statewide is 4.2%, counties like Marion (5.3%), Howard (6%), and Lake (7.6%) are experiencing higher-than-average unemployment rates.

“Our clients face obstacles, such as disproportionate unemployment rates, unequal job opportunities, and some are also impacted by the CDC eviction moratorium ending on June 30,” said Jennifer Terry, ILS staff attorney and co-counsel for the case. “Taking away federally funded benefits that Indiana officials have the infrastructure to provide through September will hurt our clients and the communities they live in.”

Co-counsels for the case have asked the judge to accept a preliminary injunction which would allow people to receive their benefits while the case continues.

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