One labor advocate says that Gov. Holcomb’s decision will disproportionately affect minorities.
Two organizations have filed a joint lawsuit against Indiana Gov. Eric Halcomb, who recently moved to terminate pandemic unemployment benefits months before their scheduled expiration.
According to CNN, the lawsuit was filed by Indiana Legal Services along with a private employment law firm.
Together, the groups claim that Gov. Halcomb’s move violates a state law that requires Indiana to “procure all available federal insurance benefits to citizens.”
“There’s a state statute that provides that, if there are funds in the federal unemployment trust fund, that it’s the policy of the state to go get those benefits for eligible Hoosiers,” Indiana Legal Services staff attorney Jennifer Terry told FOX59.
Similarly, the group’s executive director, Jon Laramore, argued that pandemic unemployment benefits constitute a valuable lifeline for many Indianans.
“These benefits have provided life-sustaining and crucial assistance to many Hoosiers during the pandemic,” Laramore said. “The Legislature passed a law creating a right to these benefits, and we’re asking Governor Halcomb to follow the law.”
The plaintiffs are requesting that the court issue a preliminary injunction so that uninsured residents can continue to receive benefits until the case is resolved.
The lawsuit asserts that the governor’s decision “would cause irreparable harm to individual clients.”
Rev. David Greene, Sr., the president of Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, told FOX59 that the cessation of benefits will disproportionately impact minorities.
“You got people who are going to be facing evictions,” Green said.
“There are a lot more minorities, African-Americans, that are unemployed that are adversely affected,” he added.
Gov. Halcomb, for his part, has defended the move as one necessary to reinvigorate Indiana’s economy.
“I am hearing from multiple sector employers that they want and need to hire more Hoosiers to grow,” Holcomb said in a statement. “We have a myriad of work options in every region of our state with many more coming online every week.”
“Eliminating these pandemic programs will not be a silver bullet for employers to find employees, but we currently have about 116,000 available jobs in the state that need filled now,” Holcomb added.
The Indianapolis Star and FOX59 observe that local lawmakers have been divided on the necessity of Holcomb’s decision to terminate benefits. Democrats, for the most part, have criticized the decision, calling it political.
“I think that was an unwise political decision, and it’s not a very good decision for the individuals that are affected,” Indiana State Rep. Ed DeLaney said.
The Star notes that more than 120,000 Indiana residents received federal pandemic unemployment benefits between the last week of April and the first week of May. Tens of thousands remain unemployed.