Granite Staters appeal to NH Supreme Court to restore federal unemployment benefits Sununu Administration prematurely cut off; Ruling could return thousands of dollars to Granite State families facing the loss of a job or income due to the COVID-19 public health pandemic
CONCORD, NH – On Thursday, October 14th, the plaintiffs in Caron, et al, vs. The New Hampshire Department of Employment Security filed an appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court in their case against the Sununu Administration over the state’s premature cut-off of federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
“We are confident we have a strong case and that the state should move swiftly to restore these benefits to families who faced a loss of income or employment during COVID-19 due to no fault of their own,” said Mike Perez of Perez Law, attorney for the plaintiffs. “These families deserve to be able to access the benefits of federal COVID relief packages that were passed by Congress and signed by the President for this very reason. This program comes at absolutely no cost to the State of New Hampshire, and even the administrative costs are covered.”
“We are hopeful that the NH Supreme Court will grant relief for our 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. “It was shocking to see the Sununu Administration argue that we brought this emergency on ourselves, and to watch them try to stop the lawsuit by arguing two different positions in two separate cases around this issue. Many families who lost federal unemployment benefits are struggling to afford items for their kids and pay basic bills for food and rent. We are all working hard to get back to the lives we had pre-pandemic, and it is just cruel to remove these benefits for no other reason than to score political points.”
“The state’s position makes it clear they are still leaning into the disproven theory that prematurely ending the federal unemployment benefits for struggling Granite State families would significantly impact unemployment rates in the state,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress, which is helping with the case. “Experts have proven otherwise and point to real barriers to workforce re-entry, including child care and other caregiving responsibilities, health issues, transportation, finding employment that matches your skills and training, and other such factors. There are also other issues here, including the fact that many workplaces remain unsafe for those who experience or have a family member with high-risk health conditions. The Sununu Administration could have focused on any of those instead of taking away people’s benefits.”
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, even though federal and state law specify the benefits must be made available and even though the program is fully funded by the federal government, including all administrative costs. An estimated 5,000 Granite Staters are impacted by the early termination of this program alone. The law clearly indicates that the federal benefit shall be made available to Granite Staters. Moreover, 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.
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.