Federal workers miss first paycheck, file for unemployment

Donald Trump. File photo: Flickr/Gage Skidmore

Jan. 11 (UPI) — Federal employees, who are either not working or working without pay due to the government shutdown, will miss their first paycheck Friday and thousands have filed for unemployment.

More than 4,700 federal employees filed for benefits in the last week of December, and another 900 filed the week before that, the Department of Labor said.

Ryan Baugh, who was furloughed from the Office of Immigration Statistics, is the steward for the American Federation of Government Employees union. He told told USA Today federal workers are anxious, confused and frustrated.

“We just don’t know when it will be over, so we don’t know how to plan,” he said. “Should we cut back? Should we started looking for other jobs? Should we apply for unemployment?”

The shutdown entered its 21st day Friday. On Saturday, it will become the longest federal work stoppage in U.S. history. Some furloughed workers protested the shutdown on Capitol Hill Thursday, upset by remarks by President Donald Trump who said the stalemate could drag on for months.

“It seems like it’s going to go on forever,” Will Kohler, a tax examiner for the IRS who filed for unemployment, told CNBC. “I need to eat.”

From food inspections to routine bureaucratic approvals, the shutdown has affected Americans and businesses in a variety of ways. Transportation Security Administration employees are working without pay at U.S. airport checkpoints. Many are calling in sick, which is a challenge that’s leading Miami International Airport to close one of its terminals Saturday.

The airport, one of the nation’s busiest, probably won’t have enough screeners to man all 11 checkpoints, airport spokesman Greg Chin told The Miami Herald.

Trump visited the U.S.-Mexico border Thursday, where he reiterated his desire for tougher security against unlawful immigration. As he departed for his visit to McAllen, Texas, he again said he may declare a national emergency to get the wall built.

“I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency,” he said. “Probably I will do it, I will almost say definitely.”

Many of the 4 million government contractors who aren’t working could also file for unemployment benefits. Some, like workers at the Department of Homeland Security, cannot take another job without approval from supervisors. Essential workers, or those temporarily working without pay, are not eligible for unemployment.

Some federal employees are using credit cards to get by, data analyst and Transportation Department contractor Andrew Leyder said.

“I didn’t think it would come to this,” he told CNBC. “Though unemployment insurance won’t cover all of my expenses, the weekly payout is better than nothing. Being in D.C., where the majority of us work for the government, it’s very hard to find another job when everyone is also trying to find a new job.”

Michelle Pendergrass, a National Parks Service volunteer in Arizona, tweeted that one furloughed employee was denied unemployment because no one was at the office to verify employment. She and other federal workers are using the hashtag “#shutdownstories” to index related stories on Twitter.

The National Park Foundation set up a Parks Restoration Fund to help repair parks as quickly as possible once the employees get back to work.

“People’s love for their national parks is palpable, and the Parks Restoration Fund gives everyone a place to channel their strong desire to support these national treasures,” said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation. “Once the government reopens and rangers have determined what needs to be done, this fund will help repair damage where it’s needed most.”


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