AP NEWS

DC mayor, California governor blast Labor Department’s shutdown guidance

January 18, 2019

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is urging the Trump administration to reconsider its refusal to make unemployment insurance available to federal workers who are still on the job amid the shutdown, yet missed their last paycheck and could miss another.

“It is unconscionable for the Trump Administration to acknowledge that these individuals are working without pay and with no end in sight, but will not make the smallest effort to help them by allowing states to offer unemployment insurance benefits,” Ms. Bowser, a Democrat, tweeted Friday.

Roughly 800,000 federal workers are affected by the shutdown, including more than 400,000 who are considered essential, or “excepted,” and are toiling without pay.

Ms. Bowser said at least 7,127 federal employees and contractors have applied for unemployment benefits in the capital region since the shutdown began. Among them, 5,897 have applied for benefits within D.C., which houses many agencies.

While furloughed workers can tap benefits, the Labor Department guidance to states says excepted employees who remain on the job are ineligible, because they’re not considered unemployed. The guidance stems from the 2013 shutdown over Obamacare, when the prior administration was in charge.

Blue-state leaders say it’s unfair to workers who are toiling without compensation during this shutdown, which entered its 28th day Friday and shows no signs of ending. Federal workers missed their first paycheck on Jan. 11, and they’ll miss the next one, too unless Democrats and President Trump and settle an impasse over border-wall funding by late Tuesday, a critical payroll deadline.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, defied the federal guidance and told TSA agents working at the Sacramento airport Thursday to apply for benefits.

“If you show up you should get paid. CA is offering unemployment insurance to those hurt by the shutdown. The people of CA should not have to suffer from Washington’s games,” Ms. Newsom wrote on Facebook.

The LA Times reported that nearly 780 federal workers applied for unemployment insurance benefits during the shutdown’s first week a 200-percent jump from the same period in the prior year.

In the nation’s capital, Ms. Bowser requested clearance Monday to pay excepted employees, but said that Labor denied her request on Thursday.

Ms. Bowser pleaded with the Labor Department to amend its guidance so that everyone is covered.

“The federal government must rethink this decision and allow us to offer federal employees the same support they are offering our nation,” Ms. Bowser said.