The South Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed that Gov. Henry McMaster (R-S.C.) and Workforce Director Dan Ellzey were within their rights to stop the state's participation in federal unemployment benefits that were expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The court upheld a lower court's decision to toss out a lawsuit claiming that McMaster acted outside of this authority when he ended South Carolina's participation in expanded federal unemployment benefits, The Charlotte Observer reported.
In May, McMaster ordered all federal, pandemic-related unemployment programs in South Carolina to end by June 30, arguing they were disincentivizing workers from going back to work.
“Since the Biden administration and Congress appear to have little to no comprehension of the damage being done and no appetite to terminate the federal payments, the State of South Carolina must take action,” McMaster wrote in a memo at the time.
The suit against McMaster and Elizey was filed in June by the Appleseed Legal Justice Center.
In its four-page decision, the court said the arguments from appellants that the benefits paid through the program were protected because they fell under the Social Security Act was "not sufficient."
"The only connection the Programs have to the SSA is that the funds to be distributed to recipients pass through bank accounts of the Social Security Administration. This is not sufficient to render benefits paid under the Programs to be 'advantages available under the provisions of the [SSA],'" the court wrote.
In a statement to the Observer, South Carolina's Department of Employment and Ellzey said, "We are very happy with the Supreme Court’s decision."
“As South Carolina employers ramped up their hiring in the spring of this year and employment opportunities continued to outnumber individuals looking for work, it became evident that it was time for the state to focus more on reemployment," they added.
Sue Berkowitz, director of the Appleseed Legal Justice Center told the newspaper, "We’re disappointed, and sorry that 70,000 to 80,000 people who are hurting still, especially during this time of increased numbers, are not getting the help."