Statement on Initial Court Ruling, Deadline Over Sununu Administration Prematurely Ending Federal Unemployment Benefits for Granite Staters Who Lost Jobs, Income During COVID-19
Sununu has 10 days left to change mind on turning away millions of dollars in federal unemployment benefits, local economy boost for Granite Staters
As plaintiffs determine next steps, DOL email obtained thru right to know request shows New Hampshire can act by October 6th to restore federal unemployment benefits Sununu Administration prematurely ended; all Sununu needs to do is act
CONCORD, NH – Today the Hillsborough County South Superior Court denied a motion to require Governor Chris Sununu’s Administration to reinstate the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program it prematurely cut off. The suit was filed on behalf of four plaintiffs seeking a declaratory ruling and injunctive relief to reinstate the federal unemployment benefits.
“The plaintiffs are reviewing the decision, and we are considering all options at this point, including appeal,” said Mike Perez of Perez Law, attorney for the plaintiffs.
Meanwhile, a federal Department of Labor email obtained through a right to know request shows that New Hampshire can act by October 6th to restore the federal unemployment benefits without delay; all Governor Sununu needs to do is act.
“A letter from Governor Sununu is all we need to reinstate federal unemployment benefits to thousands of Granite State families,” said Stephanie McKay, moderator of the NH Unemployment During COVID-19 Facebook group of over 4,500 Granite Staters who experienced unemployment during COVID-19. “This is money that will help families who had a loss of employment or income due to no fault of their own during COVID, and federal benefits which could help put money back into our local economy to help all of us better recover. Why Chris Sununu is continuing to hurt his own constituents is beyond me. This is a fully federally funded program with absolutely no financial cost to the state. Sununu is willing to accept COVID relief funds for corporate businesses but when it comes to self-employed small business owners and thousands of Granite State workers, he has told us tough luck.”
“New Hampshire stands to lose out on millions in federal dollars if action isn’t taken soon,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress, which advocates for working families and is helping with the federal unemployment benefit lawsuit. “All the Sununu Administration has to do is act, but instead Sununu is actually spending taxpayer dollars fighting lawsuits hoping to restore benefits for families. This makes absolutely no sense and is a complete waste of state resources. Sununu should be focused on expanding economic stability for families and small business owners, not harming it.”
Background on Lawsuit
The federal CARES package established several pandemic-related unemployment insurance programs which NH Employment Security prematurely terminated nearly 3 months before the programs were set to expire, impacting tens of thousands of Granite Staters struggling with the loss of income or jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One program in particular, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), covers workers who are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits, such as self-employed people, independent contractors, gig workers, and people who started a job too recently before becoming unemployed. The sudden and early termination of this program has harmed Granite State families who faced economic strife due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is fully funded by the federal government, including all administrative costs. An estimated 15,000 Granite Staters are impacted by the early termination of this program alone. In ending the federal unemployment benefits, Sununu argued that it would spur employment in New Hampshire – but instead prematurely cutting the benefit has added more economic insecurity for families facing challenges due to COVID-19, fueling cuts to household spending while not leading to significant job gains. Experts say the real challenge is barriers to workforce re-entry such as child and caregiving responsibilities, health issues, transportation, and other factors.
While the court ruling focuses on NH RSA’s, , Sununu’s legal team also tried to plead both that Governor Chris Sununu is the only one to blame and also that there is no way Governor Chris Sununu should be named as a defendant – arguing competing positions in two separate but related lawsuits around the premature end of the federal benefits.
- In a motion to dismiss filed in the Hillsborough County South Superior Court, the Attorney General’s office argued the four plaintiffs do not have standing because they sued New Hampshire Employment Security instead of Governor Chris Sununu.
- In a separate motion filed in the Grafton Superior Court, the Attorney General’s office argued the sole plaintiff does not have standing because they sued Governor Chris Sununu instead of New Hampshire Employment Security.
Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems. Visit https://granitestateprogress.org/ to learn more.