Can A Federal Employee File for Unemployment During a Furlough?

Jan 3, 2019


With the government shutdown going on 2 weeks, furloughed federal employees may not start the year off with a paycheck. While it’s likely furloughed employees will receive back pay, many wonder if they can file for unemployment benefits.

Furloughed federal employees can file for unemployment benefits during a government shutdown. The Office of Personnel Management has updated information on how these workers can file for unemployment insurance during a partial shutdown.

Eligibility varies by state. Typically, the state where an employees duty station is located will determine a workers unemployment eligibility in the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees Program. Eligible employees can file for benefits on or after the first day of their furlough. Some states may require employees to wait a week after filing a claim before they receive payment. Most states, though, will issue benefits within 14-21 days after an employee filed a claim, according to OPM.

Most states pay a maximum of 26 weeks of regular benefits, per OPM, but benefits vary based on location. For example, those who work in the District of Columbia will be paid for 26 weeks with benefits ranging from $50-$425 per week. In Virginia, benefits will be paid for 12-26 weeks and will range from $60-$378 a week. And in California, home to the highest number of federal employees, benefits will be paid for 14-26 weeks and payments will range from $40-$450 per week.

Federal agencies get billed on a quarterly basis for unemployment compensation benefits paid out to their employees. The state insurance agencies notify federal agencies when an employee has filed an unemployment claim. Agencies have up to 12 days to respond.

When the shutdown ends, most states won’t allow unemployment beneficiaries to cancel their claim if their claim was upheld and benefits were issued. Federal employees are required to repay unemployment benefits they received whenever they get back pay for the time spent during the lapse in appropriations.

“The state [unemployment insurance] agency determines whether or not an overpayment exists and, generally, the recovery of the overpayment is a matter for state action under its law,” OPM guidance reads. “However, some state UI laws require the employee to recover such overpayment.”

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