Oklahoma Ordered to Resume Additional Unemployment Benefits

Oklahoma must resume paying $300 in additional unemployment benefits each week to those in the state who are out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic, District Judge Anthony Bonner Jr. ruled, The Oklahoman reported over the weekend.

Bonner ordered the state to immediately notify the U.S. Labor Department to reinstate and administer the federal unemployment benefit programs, which Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt had ended in June, arguing that the additional payments were making it more difficult for employers to find enough people willing to work.

At the same time, Stitt declared a $1,200 return-to-work incentive.

The judge also stopped the state from withdrawing from the program until he issues his final order in the case or until the federal program ends on September 6, whichever comes first.

Bonner said that he would issue a more detailed order with findings and conclusions on Monday.

The case was brought to court when several workers sued, challenging Stitt’s authority to withdraw from the federal unemployment benefits.

In addition, 10 unemployed state residents last month filed a similar lawsuit with the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Republican governors in more than half the states in the country have taken similar steps to do away with pandemic benefits, giving the same explanation Stitt had that the extra payments were keeping residents from rejoining the workforce, a claim Democrats and a number of economists have said is not true, according to The Hill.

Last month, Indiana once again began paying the extra unemployment benefits after the state Court of Appeals ruled that it could not halt them, CNN reported.

Residents had sued Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb for stopping the benefits, declaring that he had violated state law that officials are obligated to “procure all available federal insurance benefits to citizens.”

A Baltimore judge also ruled last month that enhanced federal unemployment benefits must continue, issuing a preliminary injunction ordering Maryland to ensure those qualifying for unemployment keep getting the additional benefits despite Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision not to do so, CBS Baltimore reported.

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