Can federal employees get unemployment benefits during the partial government shutdown? The short answer is likely yes if you are furloughed, but there are some important caveats.
The Office of Personnel Management has released some up to date information on unemployment with respect to a shutdown. These documents provide some frequently asked questions as to which federal employees would likely be eligible for unemployment.
The documents are included at the end of this article. What follows is a summary of some of the key points as outlined in OPM’s documentation.
Who is eligible for unemployment benefits?
OPM says it ultimately depends on a state’s laws, but that furloughed federal employees will generally be eligible “as long as all other state eligibility factors are met.”
How do I file an unemployment claim?
According need to contact the state where you worked to file a claim. To find contact information for your state, please visit the following website: http://www.servicelocator.org/. Employees may be asked to provide proof of wages such as an earnings and leave statement, or Form SF-50 and may also be asked to provide a Form SF-8.
Are federal employees required to repay the unemployment benefits received when/if wages are paid retroactively for the time that they were not working during the partial government shutdown?
This is the important item to note – OPM says that, in most states, “employees who receive unemployment benefits and also later receive a retroactive payment from their employer for the same time period, will be required to repay the UI benefits received.” (emphasis added)
There are likely to be penalties for not paying back overpayments in unemployment. In Virginia for example, the state laws say that recipients are required to pay back overpayments, even if it happens through no fault of their own. Penalties for failing to repay the overpayments can range from fines to even prison time in some cases, and the website also states that a 15% penalty is added to the overpayment amount of the recipient cannot pay back the overpayments in a timely fashion.