The number of federal employees filing for unemployment more than doubled in the second week of January as workers missed their first paychecks, according to government data published Thursday.
More than 25,000 federal employees filed for unemployment as of Jan. 12, up from 10,500 the week prior, the Labor Department reported. By comparison, fewer than 1,700 federal workers filed for unemployment during the same period last year.
The data are nearly 2 weeks old, meaning the number of federal workers seeking assistance could be higher in anticipation of another round of missed paychecks Friday.
Many of the 800,000 workers affected by the partial shutdown have turned to loans, credit card debt and even pawn shops to get by. Food banks helping federal workers sprung up around Washington, and federal unions on Wednesday flooded a Senate office building, leading to the arrest of a dozen people for staging a sit-in at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office.
The unemployment numbers don’t include government contractors who, unlike federal employees, won’t receive back pay when the shutdown ends, nor do they include federal employees required to work without pay.
Separately, the Labor Department denied a request by several states to allow essential workers to collect unemployment, writing in a letter last Friday that the roughly 450,000 employees in question are ineligible because they “continue to provide full time services” and are not considered unemployed under federal or state laws. The letter warned that if states did pay out benefits to those workers, as California and Washington, D.C. have moved to do, federal funding would not be available for any of the costs of providing the benefits or recouping the payments once workers receive their back pay.
Democrats introduced legislation that would amend the law to clarify that federal employees required to work are eligible for unemployment compensation. Congress, during the 1995-1996 shutdown, temporarily amended eligibility requirements to allow excepted employees to receive benefits.
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Bryan Steil (R-WI) 608-752-4050
Ron Johnson (R-WI) 202-224-5323
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