Washington state’s unemployment safety net will help furloughed federal employees

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As the federal government shutdown enters its 21st day and many federal employees brace for their first missed paycheck, Washington state is standing by to assist furloughed employees with unemployment benefits while they wait to return to their jobs.

“Thousands of federal workers in our state are being unfairly harmed by this government shutdown,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Coast Guard members help protect our seas, air traffic controllers help protect our skies, and national forest firefighters help protect our land. We are ready to help those who have been forced to forego their paychecks.”

Furloughed federal employees may apply for benefits with the Employment Security Department anytime at ESD.WA.GOV. They also can apply by phone at 800-318-6022 on days according to the last digit of their social security number.

Nearly 13,000 federal employees in Washington state work for agencies affected by the shutdown. Since the shutdown started, roughly 2,000 federal employees have applied for unemployment benefits.

Workers should be prepared to provide verification of their wages when requested because ESD may be unable to reach their employers at agencies that are shut down to verify their wages. Copies of paycheck stubs are best, and those who apply for benefits online can upload records when they apply.

ESD is maintaining up-to-the-minute information for federal employees affected by the shutdown.

“We have a dedicated team to assist with these unemployment applications,” said ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine. “We’re all hoping this shutdown is over soon. Many of these employees are struggling under this hardship.”

Because the state is unable to provide unemployment insurance benefits to federal workers who remain on the job without pay, Inslee said the state is also looking into possible ways to support those workers as well.

“Directing these federal employees to work without pay is unconscionable,” Inslee said. “Federal law may keep us from providing them unemployment benefits, but we know it’s just as hard for them to be missing a paycheck. Hopefully we can find a way to support them until this shutdown ends.”

During the first quarter of 2018, an estimated 74,000 covered federal employees worked in Washington state. As of this past summer, approximately 12,900 federal employees worked for agencies that are shut down. 2,891 of those workers earned a salary under $50,000.

Media Contacts

Tara Lee
Governor Inslee’s Communications Office

Janelle Guthrie, ESD