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More fed workers expected to seek unemployment

Posted: October 10, 2013 - 12:06am

JUNEAU — Alaska’s labor department is expecting an increase in the number of federal workers seeking unemployment due to the partial federal government shutdown.

The shutdown began Oct. 1, after the House and Senate failed to come to terms on a plan for continued government funding. The Democratic-led Senate rejected proposals passed by the Republican-led House that included delays in implementing all or portions of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. The shutdown has resulted in thousands of government workers being furloughed.

Depending on how long the shutdown lasts and individual eligibility, the state would pay furloughed workers from the unemployment insurance fund. The state would then bill the federal government for reimbursement, KTOO reported.

Virginia Calloway, acting chief of unemployment insurance for the state, said it’s unclear whether workers who receive unemployment would have to repay it if they are retroactively paid for the time they were on furlough.

“That’s a question that is up in the air but unfortunately we can’t ask the federal government because they’re closed,” she said.

The U.S. House recently passed a bill that would provide retroactive pay.

Lennon Weller, who manages Alaska’s unemployment insurance trust fund, said the fund’s position is to pay workers if they meet eligibility at the time they apply.

“Later on if the situation becomes that they end up getting retroactively paid for those weeks, then that’s not for us to determine at this point,” Weller said. “I think our biggest worry is to, obviously, put money in people’s pockets in the immediate time frame if they’re currently obviously not working or not able to work and aren’t receiving a paycheck.”

Weller didn’t know how many federal workers have filed for unemployment insurance since the partial shutdown.

“It’s looking like the latest tallies that are coming, which of course would be just activity that’s happened in the last day or two, does seem to be indicating a significant bump in demand at least for the federal workforce or ex-federal workforce,” he said.

Maximum weekly unemployment is $370.00, not including dependents, Weller said. If the furlough continues, the earliest payment for a federal worker who filed last week would be next Tuesday.

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