Reynolds sued for cutting pandemic unemployment benefits 2023
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is facing a lawsuit over her decision to end pandemic-related unemployment benefits. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of three Iowans who lost their benefits, argues that Reynolds’ move to end the benefits violates both state and federal law.
Reynolds announced last month that Iowa would no longer participate in the federal unemployment programs created during the pandemic, including the $300 weekly supplement to unemployment benefits. Reynolds cited labor shortages and a need to encourage people to return to work as reasons for the decision.
The lawsuit, filed in Polk County District Court, argues that the move violates the Iowa Constitution, which prohibits the impairment of contracts. The plaintiffs also argue that the move violates the federal CARES Act, which established the federal unemployment programs.
In addition to the $300 supplement, the federal programs also included extended benefits for those who had exhausted their regular state benefits and benefits for self-employed workers and gig workers.
The lawsuit argues that the decision to end the benefits disproportionately affects low-income workers and workers of color, who were hit hardest by the pandemic and are more likely to be unemployed. The plaintiffs also argue that the move will harm the state’s economy by reducing consumer spending.
Reynolds has defended her decision, saying that Iowa has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country and that ending the benefits will help to address labor shortages. However, opponents argue that the move will not actually encourage people to return to work and will instead harm those who are struggling to make ends meet.
The lawsuit is just the latest legal challenge to Reynolds’ decision. Last month, a group of Iowans filed a separate lawsuit arguing that the decision violates the Iowa Civil Rights Act by disproportionately affecting women and people with disabilities. That lawsuit is still pending.