The Bulletin Board

Judge rules against plaintiffs in lawsuit over early end to enhanced federal unemployment benefits

By: - September 27, 2021 4:34 pm

The lawsuit was brought by four people who received federal benefits for reasons related to the pandemic. (Getty Images)

A state superior court judge on Monday rejected a lawsuit filed against the state challenging Gov. Chris Sununu’s early end to federal pandemic unemployment assistance. In her ruling, Judge Jacalyn Colburn refuted the plaintiffs’ arguments that the state had no authority to end a federal program prematurely. 

The lawsuit, brought by four people who received federal benefits for reasons related to the pandemic, named the state Department of Employment Security, not Sununu. Still, Sununu’s office issued a statement shortly after receiving the order. 

“I would like to thank the court for their clear, concise, and decisive ruling,” it said. “The New Hampshire Department of Employment Security has done a phenomenal job throughout the pandemic assisting out-of-work Granite Staters receive benefits and find work, and this ruling will allow them to continue helping our citizens unobstructed as we move forward.”

Attorney Mike Perez, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said in a statement, “We are reviewing the decision and we will consider all options with the folks who brought this case and who need help.” 

Similar lawsuits have been filed in at least 14 other states with varying results. 

Sununu joined Republican governors in several states when he announced in May that he was ending pandemic unemployment benefits in mid-June, about three months before the federal government’s end date. 

In their lawsuit, filed in late August, the plaintiffs argued the pandemic unemployment assistance was provided under the federal Social Security Act and therefore could not be interfered with by state authorities. Colburn disagreed on both counts. 

“Because all of the plaintiffs’ claims for relief are premised on flawed interpretations of (state and federal laws), the court … finds that the plaintiffs cannot succeed on the merits of their claims as a matter of law,” she wrote.

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.

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