Lawsuit challenging Sununu termination of COVID-19 jobless benefit dismissed

·2 min read

Sep. 27—NASHUA — A Hillsborough County Superior Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit that challenged Gov. Chris Sununu's early termination of a weekly $300 unemployment benefit tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a 10-page ruling, Judge Jacalyn Colburn sided with lawyers for Attorney General John Formella, who said the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance was tied to the federal CARES Act, which gave governors the flexibility to administer the program under the traditional unemployment insurance program.

In a statement, Sununu called the ruling clear, concise and decisive. He praised the Department of Employment security for its work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This ruling will allow (the Department of Employment Security) to continue helping our citizens unobstructed as we move forward," the Republican governor said.

The lawyer for the four, Michael Perez, said he and his clients will study the ruling and consider their options, including an appeal.

Passed in March 2020, the PUA included additional payments under unemployment and expanded benefits to those shut out of traditional unemployment benefits such as part-timers, self-employed and gig economy workers.

Last week, Granite State Progress criticized Sununu for contradictory filings in court cases that challenged the early termination in Hillsborough South and Grafton County superior courts.

In the Nashua case, state lawyers faulted the workers for suing Sununu rather than DES. In the Grafton County case, lawyers said workers filing a similar suit should have sued the DES rather than Sununu.

"None of us wanted to lose our jobs or income due to COVID-19. It could have happened to anyone, and we should not have to deal with the state's political games when they should just restore our benefits now," said Stephanie McKay, moderator of a Facebook page for New Hampshire residents on unemployment. Her remarks were distributed by Granite State Progress.

Sununu ended the program in mid-June, the only governor in the Northeast to do so. It expired nationwide in early September.

Sununu cited the state's labor shortage and improving pandemic conditions for ending the program early.

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