By J.D. Davidson
The Center Square

Nearly seven months after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ended a federal program that provided extra unemployment benefits, the Ohio Supreme Court still must decide whether the state was allowed to end the program early.

The Buckeye Institute, a Columbus-based policy group, filed an amicus brief this week with the court, asking it to reverse the state’s 10th District Court of Appeals and affirm DeWine had the authority to end the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program.

“The employment data show what everyone knows instinctively – government incentives matter,” said Jay Carson, senior litigator at The Buckeye Institute. “Governor DeWine was well within his authority under Ohio law to opt-out of the extended pandemic benefits which were slowing Ohio’s economic recovery.”

Candy Bowling of Hamilton County sued the state after DeWine ended the program June 26, saying a state law enacted in the 1930s required the governor to accept every federal dollar offered, regardless of stipulations attached to the money.

Business groups, lawmakers and other policy groups argued the additional $300 in weekly benefits stalled the state’s economy, making it more difficult for employers to fill positions as businesses began to ramp up after pandemic restrictions were eased.

“Ohio law does not require the governor to participate in this program,” said Larry Obhof, partner at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick and counsel of record for The Buckeye Institute in this case. “In any event, the data show that Ohio made the right choice and helped move people back into the workforce.”

Obhof also is a former president of the Ohio Senate.

The trial court upheld DeWine’s authority to end the benefits, but the 10th District Court of Appeals reversed the decision. The Ohio Supreme Court decided in early November to take up the case.

The program expired on its own Sept. 6.

“When the program was put in place, it was a lifeline for many Americans at a time when the only weapon we had in fighting the virus was through social distancing, masking and sanitization,” DeWine said when he announced the end of the benefits. “This is no longer the case as we now have an abundant supply of vaccines.”