Governors: Let states give unemployment to federal workers

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images Photo)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Democratic governors of Michigan, New York and Washington on Friday asked the Trump administration to let states offer unemployment benefits to federal employees who are working without pay during the partial government shutdown that began nearly a month ago.

Govs. Gretchen Whitmer, Andrew Cuomo and Jay Inslee said in a joint statement that their states are providing the benefits to furloughed workers. But federal regulations prevent those who are on the job without pay from eligibility.

The governors called on the U.S. Labor Department to immediately provide “clear, unambiguous” guidance on whether states have flexibility to waive the rules to help those working without pay — Transportation Security Administration officers, air traffic controllers, Coast Guard members and others. If the flexibility does not exist, they said, the department should work with congressional leaders to change the law.

“Simply put, there is no rational justification to deny these employees the same short-term relief being offered to furloughed federal employees across the country,” the governors said. They said they are “profoundly distressed” by the 28-day shutdown, which is “badly hurting” federal employees in their states and across the country.

Thousands of federal employees and their families are applying for unemployment to get by as the longest government shutdown in U.S. history drags on with no end in sight to the standoff over the Republican president’s demand for money to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Labor Department says federal employees not working during the shutdown can collect unemployment, while those who are on the job without pay cannot. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat, said Thursday that his state will give benefits to people still on the job despite the guidance prohibiting it.

The Labor Department reports that the number of furloughed federal employees seeking unemployment jumped to more than 10,000 during the week that ended Jan. 5. About 400 of them live in Michigan, said Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown. She said about 6,900 federal employees in Michigan are impacted by the partial shutdown, “many of whom are working without pay and could be considered if there were a change to the guidance/rule.”

About 3,000 federal workers in New York have applied for unemployment benefits, according to Cuomo’s office.

Whitmer separately wrote a letter to Labor Secretary Alex Acosta asking for a waiver to the unemployment insurance eligibility rules.

“These workers especially need our help to ensure they can survive the shutdown without losing their homes or their ability to pay for necessities,” she wrote.

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  • C

    I thought I read an article several days ago the Trump had made laid off federal employees eligible for immediate unemployment with the understanding that all unemployment must be repaid interest free once they get back to work. In effect, an interest free loan. I thought that it was great, but wondered what the government would do to those that are unwilling or unable to repay the money, and you know very well that there’ll be people that this would apply to.

  • Bob

    Working without pay is not being unemployed. They will get back pay. Given the history with govenment shutdowns, they should have prepared better by putting money in an emergency fund to cover 3 to 6 months of expenses.

  • steve

    Whitmer, good Democrat that she is, is trying to give readers the impression that she’s one of a few other outstanding, sympathetic Democrats setting an example by looking out for the welfare of the laid off workers. She may be that, but Trump proposed the compensation arrangement days ago. The news was made public, but as usual, very quietly for a brief period of time.

  • J.B.

    Good…Then charge them for unemployment fraud with triple the amount due back when the get their back-pay.
    That is what happens to everyone else who does this…
    All animals are equal…But some animals are more equal than others…as usual….

  • Robert E Lee

    Why should the state pay for federal workers? When YOU make the DECISION to work for the federal government you know that a shutdown is a possibility. Federal workers make more money on average than most of the working class people they “represent”. As a federal worker, making good money, living the high life on other peoples hard earned paychecks and knowing that there could be a government shutdown at anytime, you should plan for it and have some money saved. Sounds irresponsible to me! Not only that but any gvt. worker not getting paid can go to their bank and ask for a loan or a revolving line of credit and get it in a second. The banks know they will get their money, after all its from the “ALL MIGHTY USA GOVERNMENT” LOL. The money is a guaranteed once those fools get back to “work”. I say keep the government closed till we have something done on the boarder. Do not give in to the LYING PROGRESSIVES who all said they were in favor of the wall a few years ago, but because trump is going to do it, they want to oppose him. Silly progressive fools, take your looser ideas back to where they came from…EUROPE!!!!

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