Federal Unemployment Benefits Case Headed to NH Supreme Court

Governor Chris Sununu

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.

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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. 

Executive Council Rejects Federal Vaccine Money After Hours of Criminal Threatening from Armed Anti-Vax Protestors

CONCORD, NH – Today the NH Executive Council succumbed to the demands of armed far-right extremists and voted against accepting $27 million in federal funds to boost vaccination rates in New Hampshire. 

Statement from Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress:

“Governor Chris Sununu’s history of echoing far right opposition to vaccine requirements and opposing universal masking contributed to the reckless outcome of this vote. It is shameful that as our COVID cases continue to increase, Sununu and his Republican majorities are turning away opportunities to help our families and communities. It is equally disturbing that armed protestors strapped with AR-15’s showed up to the meeting, which had already been moved to the Police Academy for increased security, to threaten and intimidate our elected officials. Our decisions should be made based on public health and science, not conspiracy theories, disinformation, and fear. We thank Councilor Warmington who stood up to these intimidation tactics and supported efforts to move our community past the COVID-19 pandemic. The scene at the Executive Council and in school districts across the state is a direct result of Complicit Chris Sununu’s tacit endorsement and coddling of extremist behavior. Sununu campaigned for each and every one of the Executive Councilors who opposed these federal funds, as well as many other politicians spreading disinformation. His office has worked repeatedly with some of the same groups and individuals who are harassing and threatening elected and state officials. New Hampshire needs a leader in these dangerous and disturbing times, and Governor Sununu is failing in that job.”

Complicit Chris Sununu has a long history of coddling white nationalists, armed militias, and other extremist movements. Learn more at ComplicitChrisSununu.com.

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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. 

Before Governor Chris Sununu and Speaker Packard Demonstrate Courage to Act, Rep. Ken Weyler Resigns His Chairmanship

CONCORD, NH – Today Rep. Ken Weyler (R-Kingston) resigned as chair of the Joint Fiscal Committee and House Finance Committee, after weeks of spreading disinformation and endorsing conspiracy theories surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Statement from Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress:

“This resignation is a step in the right direction but comes weeks too late. Governor Sununu and Speaker Packard should have immediately removed Weyler last month when he got into a verbal altercation with one of our state’s top public health officials and spread disinformation and conspiracy theories. Hopefully this resignation indicates that the Executive Council and Joint Fiscal Committee will now swiftly act to accept the $27 million federal grant to increase vaccination outreach. One of the top priorities of the Sununu Administration should be to get our communities vaccinated and keep Granite Staters safe from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” 

“It is worth noting that this resignation only comes after Sununu was forced to take a position on whether Weyler should remain in the role, which is exactly why Sununu should stop dragging his feet and start calling outright for the resignation of elected officials who spout conspiracy theories and racist, antisemitic, or violent rhetoric. Sununu and Packard should use this opportunity to make clear to their Republican colleagues that spreading conspiracy theories about COVID-19 is indefensible and dangerous.”

Background

During the past month Rep. Ken Weyler and his Republican colleagues have taken multiple anti-science and anti-public health actions. In the past three weeks alone:

  • Governor Sununu canceled the last Executive Council meeting after COVID-denying extremists stormed the meeting and verbally threatened public officials over a federal grant to increase vaccination rates in New Hampshire. Two additional legislative meetings and a campaign event were also cancelled.

Governor Sununu has historically been quick to criticize Democratic lawmakers but slow to hold accountable members of his own party. Despite statements of public condemnation, Complicit Chris Sununu has yet to call for the resignation of Rep. James Spillane or Dawn Johnson, both of whom have shared racist, antisemitic material while in office.

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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. 

Complicit Chris Sununu Cancels Executive Council Meeting Over Threats Posed By COVID Deniers While Forcing School Boards Across State to Deal With Harassment

Anti-vaxx disrupter at Executive Council meeting shouting

Governor Chris Sununu continues to pander to far-right extremists every chance he gets – except when it is at his own doorstep

CONCORD, NH — Governor Chris Sununu cancelled an Executive Council meeting this morning over safety concerns posed by anti-mask, anti-vaccination COVID deniers. Meanwhile, Sununu has forced school boards across the state to deal with this same exact harassment from far-right actors for months, refusing to take steps to protect the overall safety of school board members, students, and educators.

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“Governor Sununu has forced school boards across the state to deal with this same exact harassment from far-right actors for months, refusing to take steps to protect the overall safety of school board members, students, and educators. There have been threats of violence and repeated attempts to shut down important public health discussions. Sununu could have prevented this and the spike in COVID cases our schools and communities are experiencing by implementing public health and science guidelines around universal masking. Instead, Complicit Chris Sununu continues to pass the buck and coddle up to far-right extremists. In fact, Sununu and his Chief of Staff Jayne Millerick made three separate phone calls last week to meet with the anti-vaccination leader shown leading disruption activities at the Executive Council.”

“We will never move past the COVID-19 pandemic unless we have a united effort. People who are immunocompromised, who experience a disability, are under the age of 12, or otherwise medically at-risk shouldn’t be forced to stay home just because these COVID deniers refuse to take public health seriously or believe in science. This was an agenda item to accept federal funds to further vaccination efforts. The arguments in opposition have nothing to do with personal liberty or freedom, and everything to do with the fact that these extremists do not believe that COVID is real and deadly despite the ongoing death toll. Chris Sununu and his Republican majorities are to blame for not pushing back hard and fast against this rhetoric in any form. The fact that Rep. Ken Weyler continues to chair Finance and Fiscal committees after using that position to spread disinformation is a prime example. This is all dangerous and will continue to become more so as extremists use threats of violence to get their way.”

Complicit Chris Sununu has a long history of coddling white nationalists, armed militias, and other extremist movements, learn more at ComplicitChrisSununu.com.

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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.

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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.