Gov. DeSantis, like many of his conservative colleagues, ended residents’ access to federal unemployment benefits two months before the pandemic program was set to expire.
A group of Florida residents have filed a lawsuit against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his decision to end pandemic unemployment benefits months before they were set to expire.
According to Business Insider, the 10 plaintiffs have demanded that Gov. DeSantis be compelled to reinstate the benefits. On top of that, they are asking the court to send retroactive payments to everyone who should have been paid after the program’s cancelation.
From March 2020, the federal government has offered varied forms of unemployment assistance. Earlier in the year, the government offered a supplemental $600 per week for unemployed workers, to be added to their regular state benefit.
The same program also expanded unemployment eligibility to people who normally are not covered by unemployment insurance, such as gig workers and independent contractors.
Now, the federal weekly benefit has been reduced to $300 per week. Nevertheless, the lawsuit notes that Floridians have either outright lost access to their benefits or have been deprived of an additional $1,200 in payments for “purely partisan” reasons.
The plaintiffs say that their unemployment benefits were an important lifeline, enabling them to afford housing, food, and utilities.
Insider notes that the lawsuit was filed late last week in a Broward County court. Alongside DeSantis, the complaint names as defendants the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity as well as its director, Dane Eagle.
“Given that Florida’s unemployment compensation program pays one of the lowest benefits in the country, even the addition of the extra Federal payments still barely allows unemployed Floridians to pay their basic living expenses,” attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.
Florida, notes CBS News, is one of nine conservative-led states that elected to end federal pandemic benefits more than two months before they were set to expire.
Gov. DeSantis and his allies, like Republicans across the country, defended the move as one necessary to reinvigorate the Florida workforce.
Conservatives have, in recent months, construed federal pandemic benefits as a disincentivize for people to seek new jobs or return to existing ones.
“Florida businesses and employers are hiring across the state and need unemployed Floridians to return to the workforce,” a DEO spokesperson said in a Friday statement.
However, as LegalReader.com has reported before, residents of other states have filed lawsuits, too. Judges in Indiana and Maryland have sided with unemployment residents and ordered each state to resume issuing payments.
Other lawsuits are pending states like Ohio. By and large, attorneys for unemployed workers have argued that their clients will suffer “irreparable harm” if they do not continue to receive benefits until a court decision is issued. They have also suggested that many states are obliged to accept the most federal aid available for unemployed workers, no matter the circumstances.