Northam presses Trump on unemployment insurance for unpaid, essential federal workers
Gov. Ralph Northam is seeking clarity from the Trump administration on why furloughed federal workers who are performing essential services without pay are not considered “unemployed” under state regulations.
Under this guidance, they are therefore ineligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits during the longest government shutdown in American history. If Congressional leaders and President Trump do not reach an agreement to end the shutdown by Friday, furloughed federal workers will miss a second paycheck.
“I am deeply concerned for federal workers like our TSA screeners, FAA personnel, and Coast Guard members, who have dedicated their careers to federal service, and are more constrained in their ability to meet their needs and the needs of their families each day this shutdown continues,” Gov. Northam writes in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. “Unemployment benefits to essential personnel would, in part, mitigate the costs associated with reporting to work, such as childcare and transportation, and basic necessities like food and housing.”
Virginia is home to close to 177,000 federal workers, about 64,000 of whom are impacted by the partial government shutdown. Options available to Northam for consideration include joining states like California and Colorado in directing that a reasonable interpretation of the Virginia Unemployment Compensation Act would allow for the payment of unemployment insurance benefits to furloughed essential federal employees, such as TSA workers and Coast Guard personnel.
Northam is asking Secretary Acosta to:
- Clearly specify what, if any, action the Department of Labor will take against states that provide unemployment benefits to essential furloughed workers;
- Assure states they will not be at risk of losing the credit provided to Virginia employers under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act and;
- Confirm federal funds will remain available to reimburse benefits paid to essential federal employees and for any administrative costs associated with payment of benefits.