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Trahan Co-files Bill to Pay Unemployment Benefits to Unpaid Fed Workers

January 24, 2019
U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan talks with UMass Lowell's Innovation Initiatives Senior Director Tom O'Donnell, center, and Merrimack Valley Housing Partnership Executive Director James Wilde. Trahan held an open house for constituents at her Lowell office on John Street on Monday night. SUN/AARON CURTIS Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan introduced a bill on Thursday that would provide unemployment benefits to essential government personnel during the shutdown.

Essential workers are not eligible for unemployment benefits even though they are being required to work without pay, according to guidance from the Department of Labor. This legislation would reverse that regulation and extend much needed relief for workers, Trahan said Thursday.

“As the shutdown enters its 34th day, the hardship that federal workers and their families face only continues to grow,” Trahan said in a statement. “I am alarmed by the President’s willingness to use the threat of a shutdown as a bargaining tool, and the suffering of federal workers as leverage. It is unconscionable, and a practice that must end.

“So long as federal workers remain in this difficult position, I feel strongly that Congress must continue to do what we can to help and provide for them,” she added. “Furloughed employees and employees being forced to work without pay deserve access to unemployment benefits. Their current situation is no fault of their own.”

Trahan joined with Democratic Rep. Anthony Brown, of Maryland, on the legislation.

The Trump administration recently announced that nearly 50,000 additional federal employees -- including tens of thousands at the Internal Revenue Service -- were designated as essential and were being brought back to work without pay.

Many employees at the IRS processing center in Andover are residents of Trahan’s 3rd Congressional District. These recalled workers will join the 420,000 federal employees that have already been classified as essential and have worked for more than a month without compensation.

A number of states have decided to unilaterally extend unemployment benefits for essential workers, including California, Colorado, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

Michigan, New York, Virginia, Washington and other localities have urged the Trump administration to clarify federal workers’ eligibility for unemployment benefits.