CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit challenging a decision by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s administration to end unemployment benefits under the federal CARES Act early, saying the claims are based on flawed interpretations of state law.
The pandemic-related benefits were scheduled to run out on Sept. 6. The lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Superior Court in Nashua against the state of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Employment Security, and its commissioner asked a judge to reinstate the benefits dating back to June 19, when they were ended.
In her ruling, Judge Jacalyn Colburn wrote “the plaintiffs have not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims because neither of the statutes on which they rely require the defendants to act.”
New Hampshire was among the first to expand eligibility for unemployment benefits when the pandemic first struck. Thousands of people were collecting unemployment benefits, including $300 per week supplemental payments either from the state or a federal program created during the pandemic. The state decided to end the extra payments early because the unemployment rate had dropped and given the abundance of available jobs, Sununu had said.
“I would like to thank the Court for their clear, concise, and decisive ruling,” Sununu said in a statement. “The New Hampshire Department of Employment Security has done a phenomenal job throughout the pandemic assisting out-of-work Granite Staters receive benefits and find work, and this ruling will allow them to continue helping our citizens unobstructed as we move forward.”
Michael Perez, an attorney representing the four residents who sued, had said neither state nor federal law gives New Hampshire Employment Security the authority to abandon a program known as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance before it expires.
“We are reviewing the decision and considering all options at this point, including appeal,” Perez said in an email.