An Oklahoma County District Court judge will order the state government to restart federal pandemic unemployment benefits on Monday after a group of Oklahomans challenged Gov. Kevin Stitt’s early departure from the programs.
Judge Anthony Bonner said in an email to attorneys Friday evening that he will rule in favor of the group, which challenged Stitt’s authority to opt-out of the federal programs in June.
The group filed the lawsuit in Tulsa County before it was transferred to Oklahoma County. Their attorneys, Chadwick Smith and Brenden McHugh celebrated the decision.
“We are thankful for the careful consideration by the court today and are pleased by the order for the OESC to resume federal unemployment benefits to the petitioners and all other hardworking Oklahomans required to be on unemployment,” McHugh said.
Smith and McHugh argued Stitt did not have the legal authority to end the federally funded programs before they expired in June.
According to Bonner’s email, the Oklahoma Employment Securities Commission now must request to resume the four programs.
“Oklahoma shall notify the US Department of Labor immediately to reinstate and administer the federal unemployment benefit programs,” he wrote.
A spokesperson for the Oklahoma attorney general’s office said they are reviewing the order and considering their next steps. Spokespeople for Stitt’s office did not respond to a request for comment before Friday night.
How quickly the programs could resume is unclear, as well as whether eligible individuals will be reimbursed for payments missed since June.
More details are expected on Monday.