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October 28, 2013

Furloughed federal workers denied unemployment

Small number applied and received benefits, will have to pay back

INDIANAPOLIS — Federal employees furloughed during the partial government shutdown who have applied for unemployment insurance are to be denied, and those to whom it was granted will have to pay it back.

“Pursuant to guidance given last week by the U.S. Department of Labor, Hoosier federal workers affected by the partial government shutdown earlier this month are not eligible for unemployment insurance benefits during the time they were furloughed,” according to a statement issued Monday by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. “Those who have already received benefits will be required to repay those funds.”

The reason for that is because federal workers who were furloughed are receiving back pay. But not everyone affected by the shutdown has been made whole yet, said Mary O’Rourke, a union steward with the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1438.

“Some of us did [receive back pay], not everybody did,” O’Rourke said. “I guess it depends on the bank. I don’t have a problem paying it back if I got paid for those weeks that I was off. But I feel like they shouldn’t deny it.”

About 2,200 federal employees filed for benefits in Indiana, said Joe Frank, communications director with the DWD.

“We only have about five folks who actually received benefits and will need to pay the money back,” Frank said. “We were in constant communication with the feds to make sure this wasn’t going to be an issue. The total dollar amount was less than $2,000.”

The five who received unemployment benefits will be allowed to pay the funds back without interest, Frank added.

Now that the shutdown is over, the economic impact on the region should be minimal, said Uric Dufrene, executive vice chancellor of academic affairs at Indiana University Southeast.

“The benefits of ending the shutdown will offset the costs associated with the shutdown,” Dufrene said. “I don’t want to downplay the impact on the affected households. This will have a negative impact on the specific households, but not much of an impact on the entire region.”

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