DES MOINES, Iowa — A lawsuit seeking class-action status has been filed against Governor Kim Reynolds and the State of Iowa over the decision to terminate participation in federal COVID-19 pandemic relief programs that provided additional unemployment benefits to Iowans.
The lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, also names Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend as a defendant.
It says the defendants’ decision to opt out of the program 12 weeks before benefits were set to expire, deprived Iowans “of life-sustaining benefits to which they were otherwise entitled.” Those benefits were part of the CARES Act passed in March 2020.
Gov. Reynolds announced in May 2021 the state would no longer participate in the programs, effective June 12, 2021.
The petition was brought by two Iowa women, Karla Smith of Pleasantville and Holly Bladel of Clinton. It claims at least 33,000 Iowans were impacted by the defendants’ decision to terminate the state’s participation in the federally-funded programs.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants’ actions, “violated clear legislative mandates and constituted an unlawful exercise of executive authority.”
Online court records show Smith and Bladel were previously two of four plaintiffs in a similar lawsuit filed in August 2021 in Polk County District Court. In March of 2022, they voluntarily dismissed their claims without prejudice, with the intent to refile after exhausting the administrative process before the State Appeal Board.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday said Smith and Bladel have exhausted their administrative remedies.
WHO 13 has reached out to Gov. Reynold’s office for comment and a representative said they hope to release something later Friday morning.