Federal Employees Might Have to Repay Unemployment Benefits Used During Shutdown

The Office of Personnel Management released its guidelines for federal employees furloughed during the government shutdown late last week. The guidelines stipulate that because Congress has agreed to give furloughed workers back-pay for their forced time off, employees might have to repay any state unemployment benefits received during that time.

Agencies must check to see whether any of their staff filed unemployment claims while out of work. If so, the agency must inform the state what amount of back-pay the employee(s) will receive and for what time period it covers. Regulations vary by state, but the federal government considers it to be the job of each state to recover any overpayments.

During the 16-day shutdown, roughly 800,000 federal employees were furloughed to some extent. But it is unclear how many may have received unemployment payments because of the time delay between filing a claim and receiving an initial benefit check.

The six pages of guidelines are intended to answer questions for employees who were furloughed as well as those who were required to continue working, so there is no bitterness by some who see those paid unemployment as “double-dipping.”

It also answers questions about other issues such as payment for the Columbus Day holiday and how employees who were using accrued vacation days during the shutdown should be compensated if they were in a “use it or lose it” situation and need to reschedule their vacation time.

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