Indiana Governor Stopped Unemployment Benefits Prematurely
As I wrote about here and here, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb joined his Republican counterparts in the other Red States by canceling unemployment insurance (UI) benefits afforded to workers who were displaced due to COVID-19. Thankfully, on Friday, “A Marion County judge ordered that Indiana must continue the federal government’s unemployment benefits, putting a temporary stop to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s move to drop the state from the program.”
Pandemic Unemployment is a Federal Benefit
Remember, recipients of UI qualify because they are unemployed due to no fault of their own. Most of today’s reactionary Republican base believe it is welfare — it’s not! You have to qualify for UI, and in this case, many of the workers were negatively impacted by the global pandemic, which shut down our economy. The pandemic has displaced millions of workers. Some are still receiving unemployment insurance originally extended under the CARES Act, further extended by Joe Biden until Labor Day in September.
Workers are returning to the workforce as our economy reopens. Some workers are still evaluating their options based on their personal scenarios, including childcare issues, healthcare problems, and some are worried about unsafe working conditions since Hoosiers aren’t vaccinated. That’s why it was disheartening to learn that Republican governors joined the US Chamber of Commerce to end benefits prematurely for workers because employers complained they couldn’t find staff. The truth is many of these employers were struggling to find help before the pandemic. Truck driving gigs, fast food, hotels, discount retailers, etc., were all having problems because they paid low wages, offered little or no healthcare benefits, and had poor working conditions.
Marion County Judge Orders Holcomb to Keep Paying UI Benefits
I guess these poverty exploiters tried to use their connections with Republican governors to take advantage of those on federal unemployment by kicking them off assistance so they would be forced to accept an undesirable job. Well, Governor Eric Holcomb got caught by two legal groups in Indiana, and I’m hoping other states step up.
Marion Superior Court Judge John Hanley granted the preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed June 14 by two legal organizations, which argues that Indiana law requires the state to procure federal insurance benefits to residents.
The lawsuit emphasizes that the Republican governor’s actions to withdraw Indiana from the expanded unemployment benefits before the Sept. 6 expiration of those benefits will hurt thousands.
Indiana’s decision to leave the federal program early violates state law, Hanley wrote in his court order, adding that the unemployment benefits are “instrumental in allowing Hoosiers to regain financial stability at an individual level while the state continues to face challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic during its return to normalcy.”https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/indiana/articles/2021-06-25/judge-indiana-must-continue-federal-unemployment-benefits?
Indiana Has Failed the Working Class During the Pandemic
If his actions toward Hoosiers only comprised of this poor decision, but let’s look closely at the decision-making by Governor Eric Holcomb, a Republican. As a state, Indiana is the 7th Least Safest State for COVID or the 43rd Worst State in their response to a public health crisis. Wallet Hub used the following methodology to rank the states:
In order to identify the safest states during the COVID-19 pandemic, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across five key metrics: 1) “Vaccination Rate,” 2) “Positive Testing Rate,” 3) “Hospitalization Rate,” 4) “Death Rate,” and 5) “Transmission Rate.”
These metrics are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the safest conditions.
We then determined the weighted average across all metrics to calculate an overall score for each state and used the resulting scores to rank-order the states.https://wallethub.com/edu/safest-states-during-covid/86567
Governor Eric Holcomb has made many poor decisions during this public health crisis. His attitude toward workers is abysmal and borders on the criminal. Why would anybody throw workers into a precarious situation for votes?
And while he stabbed workers in the back, guess what else he did for employers? He granted corporations blanket immunity from lawsuits earlier this year:
On February 18, 2021, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed Senate Enrolled Act 1 (the “Bill”) into law, providing legal immunity to businesses from torts causing damages “arising from COVID-19.” The Bill provides businesses and individuals with immunity from civil liability if someone is exposed to COVID-19 on their property or during an activity they organized.https://www.skofirm.com/publications/new-indiana-law-provides-businesses-with-immunity-from-covid-related-damages/
And yes, I sent a list of questions to the Governor’s press secretary Erin Murphy to get answers before publishing, but she never returned the email request for information. So, in summary, Republican Governor Eric Holcomb failed to protect Hoosiers during a pandemic, handled the closing and reopening of the economy poorly, and then tossed workers into indigent class only after giving companies blanket immunity from getting sued by workers who could get infected by a deadly virus. How’s that for public leadership?