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N.H. Supreme Court rules in state’s favor on federal unemployment benefits lawsuit

photo of NH supreme court
Todd Bookman
New Hampshire was one of at least 15 states to be sued after ending federal unemployment benefits in June 2021, two months before the program was to end.

This story was originally produced by the New Hampshire Bulletin, an independent local newsroom that allows NHPR and other outlets to republish its reporting.

The state did not violate the law when it ended pandemic unemployment benefits ahead of the federal deadline, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The state was one of at least 15 to be sued after ending federal unemployment benefits in June 2021, two months before the program was to end.

The four people who brought the case against the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security and its commissioner in August 2021 asked that the unemployment assistance be reinstated for the last two months of the federal program. They also sought back pay for benefits they didn’t receive while the federal funding was available.

The plaintiffs argued the pandemic unemployment assistance was provided under the federal Social Security Act and therefore could not be interfered with by state authorities.

A superior court judge rejected their argument in September 2021, saying their arguments were based on misinterpretations of federal law.

Wednesday, the state Supreme Court upheld that finding in a unanimous decision.

The court said the state’s only obligation was to give 30 days notice that the pandemic benefits would end. Gov. Chris Sununu did so, the court found.

New Hampshire Bulletin is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. New Hampshire Bulletin maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Dana Wormald for questions: Follow New Hampshire Bulletin on Facebook and Twitter.

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