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Oregon Members Call for Unemployment Insurance for All Federal Employees

January 24, 2019
Press Release

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Kurt Schrader, along with Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, and Peter DeFazio, sent a letter today to the Department of Labor asking to make clear that federal employees deemed “essential” or “excepted” may be eligible for unemployment insurance.

 

The Members wrote: “The 2013 Employment and Training Administration (ETA) guidance memo […] states that ‘essential’ or ‘excepted’ federal workers may be ineligible for Unemployment Insurance ‘because states may determine that they are still fully employed.’  This creates a dynamic where furloughed federal employees may apply for unemployment insurance, but ‘excepted’ federal employees, dedicated public servants, who are being required to perform their official duties do not necessarily have that same ability.”

 

Roughly 9,600 federal employees in Oregon are being impacted by the current shutdown. Those without “essential” or “excepted” status are eligible to apply for unemployment insurance which can bridge the lapse in their paychecks and help them to keep up with their bills.

 

“[T]hose who are deemed essential to show up, are not only showing up, they are serving under the most challenging conditions,” the Members continued. “ Their commitment is admirable, and we owe a debt of gratitude for their service. […] Each day the federal government requires ‘excepted’ employees to perform work without pay is untenable and the DoL has the authority to help ease that hardship by allowing these ‘excepted’  federal employees the ability to apply for unemployment insurance.”


Read the full letter here or below.

 

January 23, 2019

 

The Honorable Alexander Acosta

Secretary

U.S. Department of Labor

200 Constitution Avenue, NW

Washington, DC  20210

 

Dear Secretary Acosta:

 

We are writing to request the Department of Labor (DoL) explicitly and clearly provide guidance to states regarding eligibility for “excepted” federal workers who remain on the job in this unprecedented period of federal government shutdown.  The 2013 Employment and Training Administration (ETA) guidance memo, which is the most recent issuance of guidelines on this matter and re-stated on January 16, 2019 by Molly Conway, Acting Assistant Secretary at the Employment and Training Administration, states that “essential” or “excepted” federal workers may be ineligible for Unemployment Insurance “because states may determine that they are still fully employed”.  This creates a dynamic where furloughed federal employees may apply for unemployment insurance, but “excepted” federal employees, dedicated public servants, who are being required to perform their official duties do not necessarily have that same ability.  With the increasing potential for a second pay period to go by on Friday, January 25th and hundreds of thousands of federal employees again missing a paycheck, allowing those who remain on the job due to their “excepted” status the ability to apply for some financial relief is critical and just. 

 

In Oregon, approximately 9,600 federal civilian employees are impacted by the shutdown and those who are deemed essential to show up, are not only showing up, they are serving under the most challenging conditions.  Their commitment is admirable, and we owe a debt of gratitude for their service.  The Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) program that affords benefits to civilian federal employees provides that state law determines who is considered unemployed and other benefit eligibility standards.  If state laws define the “excepted” federal employees as unemployed, DoL should require states to pay UCFE benefits to those workers. For servicemembers covered by the Unemployment Compensation for Ex-servicemembers (UCX) program, we are also asking DoL to clarify that the current failure to pay servicemembers constitutes grounds to provide benefits to those workers.   

 

Each day the federal government requires “excepted” employees to perform work without pay is untenable and the DoL has the authority to help ease that hardship by allowing these “excepted” federal employees the ability to apply for unemployment insurance.  We respectfully request quick and concise clarification by the DoL to that end.    

 

Thank you for your consideration.

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