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SC high court backs Gov. McMaster's decision to cut off federal jobless funds

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Gov. Henry McMaster cut off unemployment funds the federal government was providing states earlier this year. File/AP

The S.C. Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging Gov. Henry McMaster's decision to terminate the state's participation in pandemic-related unemployment benefits from the federal government.

The S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center filed the complaint in Richland County on July 28 on behalf of four unidentified residents who were eligible for one or more of the emergency financial aid programs created last year under the CARES Act.  

The state's highest court upheld the lower court's decision on Oct. 13, saying the basis of the appeal was faulty.

Earlier this year, McMaster ordered the director of the S.C. DEW to withdraw from the aid programs by June 30. The ensuing lawsuit alleged the governor did not have the authority to make that decision. When a circuit court judge dismissed the case Aug. 13, the Columbia-based advocacy group appealed, citing in part a state law that required the state to accept and disburse the funds until they ran out.

Also, the group said that because the benefits were made available under the Social Security Act, DEW "must continue to participate in the programs until the programs expire."

The Supreme Court disagreed in a decision written by Chief Justice Donald Beatty. Justices John Kittredge, Kaye Hearn, John Few and George James concurred. 

The extra benefits were scheduled to run through early September. They included an extra weekly $300 to unemployed residents.

The four residents that the Appleseed Legal Justice Center represented in the lawsuit were identified in the Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling as Sheena Brannon, Shane Stencil, Tina Sullivan and Brandon Beaty.

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