Court dismisses case for early removal of COVID benefits

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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 assistance program before the federal government’s 2021 deadline to stop payments.

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

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

DeWine followed the stance of business groups who said the payments made it difficult to recruit employees. More than two dozen other states, all with Republican governors and legislatures, began blocking payments around the same time.

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

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

The attorney representing the Ohio unemployed workers seeking the benefits disagreed, saying the dismissal did not overturn an earlier appeals court ruling that DeWine exceeded his authority.

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

The program’s premature termination halted about $900 million in payments in Ohio.

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