COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to take up the appeal of Governor Michael DeWine’s decision to cut off the $300 bonus unemployment checks funded by the federal government.
The court announced it will take up the case from the 10 District Court of Appeals but has yet to schedule a hearing date or indicate if the appeal warrants oral arguments.
The DeWine administration ended the payments under the federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program effective June 26 in response to private-sector concerns the bonus checks were discouraging workers thrown out of the workforce amid COVID-19 restrictions to apply for jobs.
Business groups welcomed a late July ruling in Franklin County Common Pleas Court upholding the DeWine administration’s decision to end participation in the federal program. But that ruling quickly went to the appellate court, where it was overturned.
Meantime, the Biden administration allowed the program to expire in early September.
Business groups, led by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, remain optimistic the state high court will uphold DeWine’s decision.
“The Ohio Chamber is pleased with the court’s announcement to review the 10th District Court of Appeals’ decision finding Governor DeWine could not end the $300 per week supplemental unemployment benefit in Ohio before the federal program expires,” Chamber President and CEO Steve Stivers said in a statement.
“The lower court’s holding is a clear example of two judges legislating from the bench to overturn a policy decision by Ohio’s governor that they did not support,” the statement continued. “The Ohio Chamber has been involved in amicus briefs throughout each stage of this litigation because these supplemental benefits distorted Ohio’s labor market, making it harder for businesses across our state to find workers.”
The appeal in the case now dubbed Bowling, et al. v. DeWine also had won the support of the Buckeye Institute, a free-market research and educational nonprofit which in mid-October also announced it had filed an amicus brief supporting a Supreme Court review.
“While empty streets and darkened businesses typified the early pandemic economy of 2020, the symbol of the 2021 economy is the ubiquitous ‘Help Wanted’ sign,” said Jay Carson, the institute’s senior litigator in the news release.
He called the continued boosted unemployment benefits “a significant factor” in slowing recipients’ return to the workforce.
“Since uncertainty is the enemy of economic growth,” Carson said, “The Buckeye Institute is asking the court to take this case and hold that Governor DeWine has the authority to encourage Ohioans to return to work by opting out of the federal program.”
The Ohio chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business also welcomed the court’s decision to consider the case. It has also offered legal briefs in support of overturning the 10th District’s decision.
“We’re looking forward to the Ohio Supreme Court to make a rational decision on this issue,” NFIB Ohio Executive Director Roger Geiger told The Ohio Star in an interview. “We don’t think (the expanded unemployment benefit) is good policy.”
He said his members in a most recent survey reported 200,000 jobs going unfiled, or half of the jobs offered. He pointed to national employment numbers showing 6 million in the pre-pandemic workforce never came back.
“A short-term gain of benefits,” he said, “is not going to benefit a person better than getting a job.”
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Brian R. Ball is a veteran Columbus journalist writing for The Ohio Star and Star News Network. Send him news tips to [email protected]
Photo “Mike DeWine” by Governor Mike DeWine. Background Photo “Ohio Judicial Center” by Minh Nguyen. CC BY-SA 4.0.