The federal government shutdown cost taxpayers billions of dollars
but at least a tiny fraction will be recouped: Federal employees will
get paid just once-not twice-- for not working.
employees who collected unemployment insurance during the 16-day
shutdown will have to return the payments because the workers are also
receiving back pay, the Labor Department said late last week.
agency earlier this month said it expected to issue guidance that likely
would result in some states allowing federal employees to keep both the
jobless benefits and the retroactive pay, depending on individual state
In Oregon, for instance, a law permits employees to keep
the benefits even if they receive back pay, as long as they did not
perform any services during their furloughs. About 730 federal workers
in Oregon made an initial claim for unemployment insurance during the
shutdown and received about $390,000 in benefits, the state Employment
Department says. The state paid the benefits but said it expected to be
reimbursed by the federal government.
But in guidance to states
late last week, the Labor Department said that, because they were in
"pay status," all furloughed employees "were not 'unemployed' and are
thus ineligible for unemployment benefits."
The Oregon Employment
Department said in a news release that it now will tell federal
employees the benefits "are an overpayment and must be repaid." It added
that the Labor Department changed the directive it had issued earlier
this month which said that federal employees were eligible for
Nationally, about 70,000 of the 400,000
federal employees furloughed during the shutdown applied for jobless
benefits, but a much smaller number took the steps required to receive
them, federal and state labor officials say. They generally collected
the payments for just one week because they worked during parts of the
shutdown's first and third weeks.
Even before the Labor
Department's recent guidance, the agency had said it was clear that
federal employees in most states would have to repay the benefits