The Department of Labor allegedly sent a letter to states instructing them not to offer unemployment benefits to federal employees not receiving pay during the federal government shutdown. California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) is doing it anyway.
Thousands of federal employees from the IRS to the EPA have filed for unemployment benefits during the shutdown, which has become the longest in modern history and rapidly approaches the one-month mark. Over 5,600 filed for unemployment in December, and that rate has continued to climb as the shutdown drags on.
“1,000 federal government employees in Washington state have already applied for unemployment benefits.” @KimOnKUOW talks to @paigereports_ how the government shutdown is affecting workers in #Washington state. https://t.co/kPvifbEgMk
— KUOW Public Radio (@KUOW) January 9, 2019
California has the largest number of federal employees, and Newsom is offering them benefits despite the Labor Department order to the contrary.
“So, the good news is, we’re going to do it, and shame on them,” Newsom told TSA employees according to NPR.
This could throw a wrench into a possible Republican strategy: getting TSA to strike in numbers that would paralyze national air travel.
The order to deny federal employees unemployment assistance comes as the latest in a series of insulting actions from government leadership including telling unpaid officers of Coast Guard to have a garage sale, blaming federal employees for not having enough savings to work without pay, and denying federal workers a scheduled pay raise while raising the salaries of cabinet secretaries.
The Labor Department order isn’t the only struggle in getting unemployment for federal workers — no one is at their office to verify their employment.
Arizona NPS furloughed employee has been denied unemployment because employment cannot be verified. #shutdownstories
— Michelle Pendergrass (@michpendergrass) January 10, 2019
Those who do get unemployment benefits need to prove they’re seeking new work despite already having a full-time job that has just elected not to pay them. They must also repay anything they received from unemployment assistance if Congress authorizes back pay.
And that’s for the workers in states like California, where governors are ignoring the directive from the Department of Labor.
One of the TSA agents Newsom spoke to is selling his home. Where he’ll find one in California’s affordable housing crisis is unclear. But he’s in good company; many workers are selling everything they can.
“Because of the shutdown and being furloughed — or basically, not being paid — I had to put a ‘for sale’ sign on my house on Sunday,” said Miguel Pagarigan, who already drives a 40-mile commute.
As is depressingly usual in articles about the shutdown, Grit Post continues to report that there is no end in sight to the plight of people like Pagarigan.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.