COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to decide whether Gov. Mike DeWine had the legal ability to end the state’s participation in a federal pandemic unemployment aid program ahead of a government deadline for stopping the payments.
At issue before the court is a weekly $300 federal payment for Ohioans to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The federal government ended that program Sept. 6, but DeWine stopped the payments June 26, saying the need for the payments had ended.
DeWine, a Republican, followed the position of business groups that said the weekly payment was making it difficult to recruit employees. Critics of ending the payments said workers had multiple reasons why they might not be returning to jobs.
A county judge rejected a lawsuit’s claims that DeWine didn’t have the authority to stop the payments, but the 10th Ohio District Court of Appeals reversed that ruling.
Ending the program early stopped about $900 million in Ohio payments. The two parties disagree on whether that money could still be paid, should the court rule against DeWine.
The Ohio Supreme Court voted 4-2 to take the case, with Justice Patrick DeWine, the governor’s son, recusing himself to avoid the appearance of impropriety “that might result from my father’s public involvement in this case.”