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Help is available for shutdown-harmed federal workers

UPDATE (Jan. 24, 2019 at noon) — Gov. Jay Inslee announced today that amid the ongoing federal government shutdown he is directing the state Employment Security Department to make ALL federal employees, including those who are being forced to work without pay, to be eligible for unemployment benefits. So this story below has been updated. Follow the links ESD’s site for developing details.

OLYMPIA (Jan. 24, 2019) — The longest partial federal government shutdown in U.S. history, now in its second month with no end in sight, is profoundly harming families and businesses across Washington state.

The state Employment Security Department (ESD) estimates that nearly 13,000 of the state’s roughly 74,000 federal employees have either been locked out of their jobs or deemed “essential” and coerced into working, but without pay. That is creating extreme hardship as the affected workers struggle to make house/rent payments, feed their families, and meet other basic needs.

Several state agencies are working to try to protect Washington residents and mitigate the harm from the disruption in federal services. For their part, what follows is some information from ESD about the assistance available to shutdown-affected workers.

Who is eligible for unemployment benefits?

► If you’re “furloughed” (locked out from your jobs without pay), you should be eligible for benefits, as long as you meet other eligibility requirements. Get details.

► If you’re being forced to work part time without pay, you should be eligible, depending on your gross earnings.

► If you’re being forced to work full time without pay, you are not should be eligible for unemployment benefits. Get details.

► If you work for a company that is contracted by the U.S. government, you are not considered a federal employee. However, if you are laid off by your company because of the shutdown, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Get details.

Click here to apply for unemployment benefits or get more information.

When will you receive your first unemployment check?

The first week you are eligible for benefits on a claim is a mandatory unpaid waiting week. You will not be paid benefits for your waiting week. Your second week of unemployment will be the first potentially payable week. Payment is normally available within three to four business days after you submit a weekly claim for that second week of unemployment. If you sign up for direct deposit, you’ll get benefits faster. Get details.

What other state resources are available?

► Washington State Department of Financial Institutions has developed a list of financial resources for federal workers impacted by the government shutdown. If you are a federal government employee or contractor experiencing financial hardship as a result of the government shutdown, check out the resources on the DFI website.

► If you have been impacted by the current U.S. government shutdown, 2-1-1 may be able to help. Dial “211” to speak to a specialist, or search for your local 2-1-1 website here.

► Governor Jay Inslee’s office has also posted a consolidated list of resources to assist federal workers harmed by the partial government shutdown.

Avoid predatory lenders running “shutdown scams.”

The state Attorney General has posted a consumer alert for shutdown-affected workers that warns:

  • Consumers considering payday loans or tax refund advances should thoroughly investigate the costs of the loan or advance and consider less costly options.
  • Consumers should be extra vigilant about unsolicited or automatic calls from telemarketers and scammers during the shutdown because many of the federal agencies that regulate these calls are unavailable.
  • If you are looking for temporary work during the shutdown, beware of fake job postings or work-from-home offers that require application fees or other costs.

The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO is supporting local and national efforts to pressure the President Trump and Congress to Stop the Shutdown. But the WSLC also offers direct support to workers facing layoff.

For more information about the WSLC’s Workforce Development Department and how to reach staff support, click here.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!