Are furloughed government contractors eligible for unemployment during the government shutdown?
David J. Berteau- President & CEO, Professional Services Council
Michael Harrison, Policy Director, Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation
William Walton, Unemployment Insurance Director, Virginia Employment Commission
U.S. Department of Labor
Furloughed and fed up, government employees and contractors feel strung along and pressed for cash as the sun begins to set on day 14 of the government shutdown.
Government contractors are particularly sidelined; they aren't guaranteed back-pay during a shutdown.
"In the last 22 government shutdowns back to 1974, not including this one, Congress has approved back-pay for government civilians who have been affected by the shutdown. They have never approved back-pay for contractors," David Berteau, President and CEO for trade association Professional Services Council. "We think that's unfair and unequal treatment."
A viewer reached out to the Verify team asking whether furloughed government contractors are eligible to apply for unemployment.
Our experts agree, furloughed contractors WOULD be eligible to collect unemployment check.
"Any circumstance where the contract is suspended, you've got an order to stop work... you're not getting paid, the government could lay off that employee, temporarily give them a furlough with an in date or permanently lay them off," Berteau said. "In those two circumstances, once they've got those lay-off notices, they could apply for unemployment benefits."
Without those notices, you won't be eligible, Berteau explained.
We also contacted the D.C. Department of Employment Services, Virginia Unemployment Commission and Maryland Labor Licensing and Regulation.
They all confirm, yes, furloughed government contractors CAN apply for unemployment.
The Department of Labor sent Verify researchers the following statement:
"Employees of government contractors who are furloughed during the partial government shutdown may be eligible to claim unemployment compensation under the same state requirements and conditions of other laid-off workers. Eligibility for unemployment insurance, benefit amounts, and the length of time benefits are available are determined by the state law under which unemployment insurance claims are established. Generally, workers should file claims in the state where they worked. Current data on government contractors claiming unemployment insurance compensation is not available; however, data on initial weekly claims, which may allow for comparisons over time and by state, are available here":
"Essentially anyone who's out of work can file a claim. If it's a contractor who's out of of work as a result of the government shutdown, they can file a claim," William Walton, unemployment insurance director at Virginia Unemployment Commission, said. "Bottom line is if you're not working, federal employee or not, you have the right to file a claim."
However, if the employee gets back-pay from their contracting company, they'll have to repay their unemployment checks to the state. Keeping both your back-pay and your unemployment checks is called "over-payments."
Maryland is still waiting to collect $215,000 of over-payments from 333 federal employees from the 2013 shutdown, Michael Harrison, a policy director at Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation said.
As of Jan. 3, about 750 federal employees have filed for unemployment insurance in Maryland since the shutdown.
The number of federal contractors who have filed claims, remains unknown, as contractors don't file federal claims, and are not asked on the regular claim.
To file an unemployment insurance claim in Maryland click here or call 877-293-4125.
To file an unemployment insurance claim in Virginia click here. To file in the District, click here.