- The US Labor Department said thousands of staff are now applying for benefits
- Around 420,000 working without pay, and 380,000 more are home with no pay
- Trump promised Wednesday employees will get backpayments when it ends
Thousands of federal employees and their families are applying for unemployment and food stamps to get by as the longest government shutdown in U.S. history drags on with no end in sight.
The U.S. Labor Department on Thursday reported that the number of furloughed federal employees seeking unemployment benefits has jumped, from fewer than a thousand per week before the shutdown to more than 10,000 during the week that ended Jan. 5.
Trump signed legislation Wednesday to guarantee employees will be given back pay once the shutdown ends. But that also means those who obtain unemployment benefits to get by in the meantime will have to repay the money.
The Labor Department has said that federal employees who aren’t working during the shutdown can collect unemployment, while those who are on the job without pay cannot.
But the rules are being applied unevenly. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, for example, said the state will give benefits to people still on the job despite the federal guidance prohibiting it.
‘The good news is we’re going to do it, and shame on them,’ he told TSA workers during a visit Thursday to Sacramento International Airport.
He said workers in California’s employment development department may authorize benefits for federal employees who are still working and that he’s confident those workers will pay the state back.
The nearly 4-week-old stalemate over President Donald Trump’s demand for funding for a border wall affects about 800,000 employees. When it started, roughly 420,000 were told to work without being paid, and 380,000 others were sent home with no pay. Some of those numbers have shifted in the past week as agencies such as the IRS have called tens of thousands back to work.
The benefits rules made no sense to Charisma Banks, whose husband is deployed on a ship with the Coast Guard.
The Chesapeake, Virginia, mother of a 9-year-old boy called the state unemployment office to ask whether her husband could qualify for benefits. She was told no.
‘They’re like, `Here’s where it gets sticky: Even though he’s not getting a paycheck, he’s still employed,” she said.