ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland General Assembly is taking up an emergency bill that would allow federal employees forced to work without pay during a shutdown to apply for unemployment benefits to tide them over.

"The fact is, this budget deal is only for three weeks," said Montgomery County Senator Brian Feldman. "So on the 15th of February we might be in the same place in shutdown mode."

Unemployment claims spiked during the government shutdown, but workers who were forced to stay on the job without pay did not qualify.

"If we find ourselves in the same situation I want to be sure all of our federal employees and their families have some basic assistance," said Del. Jessica Feldmark who represents parts of Howard and Baltimore Counties.

The US Labor Department is resisting the expansion of unemployment benefits to employees working without pay.

US Rep. Anthony G. Brown of Maryland is asking Congress to approve a bill that would permit all federal workers during a shutdown to apply for unemployment compensation, which would be reimbursed once those employees receive back pay.