Cleveland law firm files lawsuit to restore $300 federal unemployment payments

Posted at 4:30 PM, Jul 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-07 18:42:11-04

CLEVELAND — It's been nearly two weeks since Ohio stopped participating in the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

Since then, thousands of Ohioans have stopped getting an extra $300 in their unemployment checks to make ends meet.

“We think that violates Ohio's statute,” said Marc Dann, managing partner of Dann Law and Advocate Attorneys.

Dann, who is also a former Ohio attorney general, filed a lawsuit in a Cuyahoga County court against Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Job and Family Services director Matt Damschroder.

It argues that getting rid of the extra payments is against Ohio unemployment law.

“Ohio has a statute as part of its unemployment law that says the governor and the director of ODJFS are required to obtain from the federal government the maximum amount of money that's available for Ohioans who have unemployment insurance,” said Dann.

Dann and his team are asking for the judge to restore the payments while the case goes through the legal process.

He said some of his clients have health problems preventing them from going back to work and more people are now reaching out.

“We've received dozens of emails and phone calls from people around the state who are really facing serious displacement from their prior employment,” said Dann. “Jobs that they had before just no longer exist. So they're going to have to retrain for something else. And so it's not as simple as just applying for a job and walking in the door.”

But on the flip side, some feel DeWine's decision to stop the payments was the right move.

John Barker, president and CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association, says, "The industry lost, this is across the United States, $290 billion dollars since the pandemic."

Barker said now the industry is hoping to make up for those losses, but even though customers have returned, hiring has been slow. Barker said the organization reached out to its members to get to the bottom of the issues.

“What kept coming back to us is, ‘We can't open up our restaurants on certain days. We can't open up on certain shifts. We're shutting down at lunch.’ And we said, ‘Why?’ And they said, ‘Because we don't have staff,’” said Barker. “And we said, ‘So what are the issues?’ What they told us was many of their former employees said there's no reason to come back to work because, 'I'm fine with the federal unemployment.' So that's how that all started.”

Barker said the organization relayed that information to DeWine’s office, which then began asking other industries how they were doing.

“It was the same feedback that people were getting everywhere,” said Barker.

Now that the FPUC program has ended in Ohio, Barker said things are improving.

“The last week, as we've talked to operators around the state, they are saying the applicant pool is starting to increase, which was really good news for everybody," Barker said.bBut he believes a reversal by a judge could stop all that.

“Hope not to see that because we're just now beginning to see a little positive momentum,” said Barker.

The first hearing in this case is set for July 21.

Dann said there are multiple options for the outcome of the hearing.

“Choice A would be to issue an injunction that says that the governor is prohibited from refusing that money going forward,” said Dann. “The second thing we've asked them to do is we filed something called a writ of mandamus, and that's a statutory and constitutional provision that requires that any citizen of the state can petition the court to order a government official like Governor DeWine and Director Damshroder to execute a clear legal duty that they have.”

If those motions are denied, Dann said they would consider an appeal or bring a separate suit against the state to recover the unemployment payments people lost.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Download the News 5 app for free to easily access local coronavirus coverage, and to receive timely and limited news alerts on major COVID-19 developments. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Vaccinating Ohio - Find the latest news on the COVID-19 vaccines, Ohio's phased vaccination process, a map of vaccination clinics around the state, and links to sign up for a vaccination appointment through Ohio's online portal.

See data visualizations showing the impact of coronavirus in Ohio, including county-by-county maps, charts showing the spread of the disease, and more.

Rebound Northeast Ohio News 5's initiative to help people through the financial impact of the coronavirus by offering one place to go for information on everything available to help and how to access it. We're providing resources on:

Getting Back to Work - Learn about the latest job openings, how to file for benefits and succeed in the job market.

Making Ends Meet - Find help on topics from rent to food to new belt-tightening techniques.

Managing the Stress - Feeling isolated or frustrated? Learn ways to connect with people virtually, get counseling or manage your stress.

Doing What's Right - Keep track of the way people are spending your tax dollars and treating your community.

We're Open! Northeast Ohio is place created by News 5 to open us up to new ways of thinking, new ways of gathering and new ways of supporting each other.

View a map of COVID-19 testing locations here.

Visit Ohio's Coronavirus website for the latest updates from the Ohio Department of Health.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.