Labor Dept. Tells States Furloughed Feds Must Give Back Unemployment Benefits

SONCHAI JONGPOR/Shutterstock.com

This story has been updated. 

All states must recoup any unemployment payments made to federal employees furloughed by the shutdown, the Obama administration has advised.  

The announcement comes after a group of House Republicans called on the administration to ensure all federal employees who received unemployment insurance repay the compensation in full.

When the shutdown began, about 900,000 federal workers were placed on furlough and eligible to apply for unemployment. In Washington, D.C.; Maryland; and Virginia alone, about 42,000 requested the compensation. In those states, however, feds were required to return the payments after Congress granted the employees retroactive pay for the time they missed.

That was true in most states throughout the country, but some such as Oregon have permitted federal employees to keep both their back pay and their unemployment benefits, as originally reported by USA Today.

“This makes absolutely no sense,” wrote 19 Republican members of the House Ways and Means Committee, including its chairman Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, in a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell. “Since unemployment benefits are keyed to replace roughly half of an employee’s prior pay, this practice would amount to paying furloughed federal employees time and a half for not working.”

The committee members suggested federal statute permits OMB to demand that employees who receive back pay return the benefits. The lawmakers said Burwell should use that authority “so that we maintain the integrity of the unemployment insurance system for those it is intended to serve -- unemployed individuals who have been laid off through no fault of their own, and not temporarily furloughed federal employees who have already received full back pay.”

The Labor Department agreed with the letter and issued guidance stating: “Because Congress provided for full retroactive pay for furloughed federal employees and the Office of Personnel Management classified all furloughed federal employees as having been in pay status throughout the shutdown, the department believes that these employees were not ‘unemployed’ and are thus ineligible for unemployment benefits.”

The department added: “States must now take appropriate action to address the return of unemployment benefits already distributed.”

The maximum unemployment benefit varies by state, but typically ranges from $300 to $500. Most states maintain a one-week waiting period before non-working individuals become eligible to receive benefits, meaning most furloughed feds who received unemployment only did so for one week.

In Oregon, about 1,300 federal employees must return their $450 unemployment checks.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.