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The Cole County Circuit Court rejected a preliminary injunction aimed at restoring federal pandemic unemployment benefits Tuesday.

Presiding Judge Jon Beetem ruled in favor of the state's decision to end participation in the federal unemployment benefits program, rejecting the plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction.

The plaintiffs were asking the judge to declare Missouri's early termination of benefits illegal under the Employment Security Law and the Declaratory Judgment Act.

Beetem's ruling states the plaintiffs' arguments aren't supported by the referenced statutes and the preliminary injunction failed to show "a probability of success on the merits."

Without a mandate controlling the governor's discretion, the plaintiffs are debating the wisdom of Parson's policy strategy, Beetem said, which is not for the court to decide.

"The purported obligation of the governor to continue federal CARES Act benefits indefinitely, which plaintiffs impute to the statutes, is simply not present in the plain language of the statutes, directly contradicts the terms of Missouri's agreement with the federal government and would transform an optional unemployment program into a state-law requirement," Beetem wrote in his judgment.

Missouri's participation in the federal pandemic unemployment benefits, provided through the CARES ACT, contributed an extra $300 per week to unemployed Missourians amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal program is scheduled to end Sept. 6, but Missouri was one of the first states to end its participation in the program.

On May 11, Gov. Mike Parson ordered the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to inform the U.S. Department of Labor that the state would be voluntarily ending participation starting June 13.

Parson said he made the decision in an effort to bring Missourians off unemployment and back into the workforce amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, representing the governor in court, considered the case a win.

"As Missouri's economy continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are still struggling to hire workers for a large number of open, available jobs," Schmitt said in a news release. "Too often, businesses can't compete with the steady stream of federal benefits.

"Today's ruling affirmed the legality of Gov. Parson's decision to terminate these temporary benefits and will hopefully lead to the hiring of workers for businesses that desperately need the help," Schmitt said.

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