When the federal government shut down for sixteen days in October, it left approximately 400,000 employments across the United States effectively jobless. A small percentage of these employees applied for unemployment benefits during that time, and some of them were approved and actually received benefits. However, now that Congress approved back pay for the furloughed employees, whether or not they will have to pay back the unemployment benefits depends on the laws of each individual state.
What is Oregon’s Law?
Oregon unemployment laws dictate that if an employee is uncertain when they will return to work and back pay is not guaranteed, they are eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Furthermore, if it turns out that back pay is awarded for their lapse in employment duties, they will not be expected to reimburse the state for the unemployment they received. Effectively, employees in this situation are allowed to “double dip” and keep both unemployment checks and back pay checks.
Though this law was not made with the possibility of a government shutdown in mind, the furloughed workers who received unemployment now qualify under the rule to keep their benefits. In Oregon, about 27,000 government workers were on furlough, 4,400 applied for benefits, and approximately 1,300 received benefits. Because the employees were only off work for one full week (working a couple of days the first and third week), they received one week of unemployment benefits. Each employee received an average of $500 and benefits paid out total around 680,000 in Oregon. The government estimates all the “double dip” states will total at least a couple of millions of dollars, which the feds will have to pay back to each of the states.
Many people have complained that it is unfair that employees in certain states get to keep their unemployment checks while employees in other states must return them. However, laws are laws and in Oregon, the government employees received their benefits under the law fair and square. Though it may seem unfair to allow them to “double dip” at the expense of the government, citizens should remember that it was not their fault that they were suddenly and without fault thrown into a period of financial uncertainty. Unemployment benefits exist to help Oregon citizens who have lost their jobs at no fault of their own and these benefits have helped millions of Oregon workers and their families survive through periods of unemployment. Government workers are no different, and they truly did not know when they would get to return to work or if they would receive payment for their furloughed time. Therefore, they meet the criteria and the law should apply to them.
Unemployment can be a frightening experience and you deserve full benefits under the law. If you are facing unemployment and need help, contact HKM as soon as possible.