Neal Calls on Secretary Acosta to Help Furloughed Workers Access Unemployment Insurance

Jan 15, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) sent a letter to Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Alexander Acosta calling for guidance to be issued that would ensure that states can provide federal workers not being paid during the government shutdown with Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. Roughly 800,000 federal workers are furloughed without pay due to the shutdown, and President Trump has stated that this impasse could persist for many more months. Unemployment Insurance would  help furloughed workers make ends meet and pay for necessities as the shutdown continues. 

“During the shutdown in 2013, the Department of Labor moved quickly to make sure this lifeline was available to workers, issuing guidance to state workforce agencies about helping workers access UI benefits, 10 days after the shutdown cut off their pay,” wrote Chairman Neal. “Twenty-four days after the shutdown began, your department has not issued similar guidance to help federal workers navigate this crisis. Indeed, many states are working hard to help these workers, but the lack of guidance and leadership from DOL has impeded their progress.”

Certain UI eligibility requirements – for example, that recipients be actively searching for new jobs, and that they obtain proof of eligibility directly from agencies – can be waived when workers are furloughed or are expected to return to their jobs without pay. However, Chairman Neal pointed out that without guidance on this matter from DOL, “we are hearing reports that some workers have been unable to access benefits, and without guidance, states may not be able to use the flexibility in federal law.” Mr. Neal also raised his concern that as the shutdown drags on, DOL does not act, and more furloughed workers are called back to the office, “this Administration is simply forcing more and more federal workers to return to their work stations without pay or UI benefits.”

Lastly, Chairman Neal pointed out that “the need for unemployment benefits caused by the shutdown will, in the short run, have a negative impact on unemployment trust fund balances, which are already dangerously low in a number of states.” He asked that Secretary Acosta respond and explain “what harm the shutdown is doing to state unemployment insurance trust funds in the short run, whether that impact is triggering tax increases for employers to fund the shortfall, and how you plan to work with states to remedy that harm in the longer term.”

Full text of the letter is available HERE

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