Sununu Applauds Ruling Backing Decision To End Federal Unemployment Early; Appeal Possible

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PAULA TRACY file photo

Gov. Chris Sununu is pictured at a press conference last November in this file photo.


CONCORD – Gov. Chris Sununu applauded a court ruling Monday that dismissed a citizens lawsuit against his administration over what they called a premature cut-off of federal unemployment assistance benefits in the pandemic.

The plaintiffs said Sununu is leaving millions of dollars of federal money on the table for needy residents and they have yet to decide on an appeal.

The ruling in Hillsborough County Southern District Superior Court denied the plaintiff’s motion to require New Hampshire to reinstate the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program and dismissed the case outright.

Sununu explained as background that the state announced it would be ending participation in the enhanced federal unemployment benefits over four months ago and gave citizens notice of over a month – as required by the United States Department of Labor – to prepare for the change.

“I would like to thank the Court for their clear, concise, and decisive ruling,” said Sununu. “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.”

The suit was filed on behalf of four plaintiffs seeking a declaratory ruling and injunctive relief to reinstate the benefits, which could have returned thousands of dollars to Granite State families facing the loss of a job or income due to the COVID-19 public health pandemic, the plaintiffs said.

 You can read the Court’s ruling here.

The plaintiffs are Cassandra Caron, Brandon Deane, Alison Petrowski, and Aaron Shelton and the Judge was Jacalyn Colburn.

In the ruling, the court notes that “based on the foregoing analysis, the Court concludes that 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. Having failed to make this vital showing, the plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction is denied.”

“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.

Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director for Granite State Progress, said Sununu has 10 days left to change his mind on turning away millions of dollars in federal unemployment benefits, a local economy boost for Granite Staters.

She said as the plaintiffs determine their next steps, a state Department of Labor email, obtained thru a right-to-know request, shows New Hampshire can act by October 6 to restore federal unemployment benefits that Sununu Administration prematurely ended.

“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.

It includes 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.’”

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