Thousands of federal employees filing for unemployment benefits in the D.C. area

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, October 7, 2013

Just because you technically have a job doesn’t mean you can’t apply for unemployment benefits apparently.

More than 24,000 furloughed federal government workers in the D.C. metro area have applied for unemployment benefits in the District of Columbia and Maryland since the government shutdown began last Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

Ten thousand claims had been filed in D.C. by Friday, District Department of Employment Services spokeswoman Naila Haywood told the AP. In Maryland, there had been 14,000 federal unemployment claims as of Friday morning – nearly four times the number of claims from federal workers than the Old Line State usually receives in a single year.

“They want to know if someone can help them,” Maureen O’Connor, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, told The Washington Post. “They are unemployed . . . and we will do our best to help them.”

The Virginia Employment Commission has not provided the AP with an updated number on claims from federal employees last week, however the VEC had received 166 paper applications Friday morning from federal workers, spokeswoman Joyce Fogg told the Post. To file for unemployment in Virginia, workers have to submit their claims on paper and include a copy of their W-2 form or paycheck stub because the agency isn’t able to digitally access information about federal wages.

“Maybe a lot of people think that some decision will be made and perhaps they may not have to” apply for unemployment benefits, Fogg told the Post, adding that she expects that number to increase as the shutdown continues on.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics did not provide a jobs report for the month of September last week as a result of the government shutdown.

Even if these unemployment claims are approved, the American people likely won’t end up on the hook. Congress has already taken steps to make sure federal workers are paid retroactively when the shutdown ends, with the House passing legislation over the weekend to give furloughed employees back pay. The legislation would also require furloughed employees to return their unemployment pay in full before collecting their paychecks, the AP noted.

Furloughed employees received back pay during the last federal government shutdown in 1995.

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