Federal workers feel the aftereffects of 16-day shutdown
10/18/2013, 6:02 a.m.
Tens of thousands of furloughed federal employees returned to work in DeKalb and across Georgia on Oct. 17 after 16 days off the job due to the partial government shutdown.
Hard-line Republicans in Congress agreed to finance the operations of government until Jan. 15, raise the nation’s debt limit through the middle of February, and leave President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act unchanged except for tighter income verification rules.
Federal employees considered nonessential were prevented from working during the shutdown that began on Oct. 1 when Republicans insisted that the Affordable Care Act be defunded as a condition for passing a spending resolution, which the president rejected.
Before the settlement, at least 10,300 furloughed federal workers in Georgia applied for
unemployment benefits, not knowing how long the shutdown would last.
On Oct. 15, public health analyst Kristal Davis was in orientation at the Georgia Department of Labor Career Center in Decatur applying for the maximum $330 weekly unemployment insurance benefits to help cover rent, car payments, utilities and other routine expenses.
“I’m here because I have to be prepared whether it ends or continues,” she said on Tuesday.
Even though the furlough has ended, the federal workers still have to adjust to a disruption in their income.
Internal Revenue Service employee Luvondra Lane of Clarkston, who also was applying for UI benefits, said she had been able to pay her utilities and rent but had to put her car payment on hold this month.
As of Thursday, she hadn’t been called back to work and faces a long gap until next payday, which means she’ll need at least one unemployment payment.
“We still won’t get a check until mid-November because we don’t have any time in the system these two weeks we’ve been out,” Lane said. “We won’t get paid at the end of this month. That’s guaranteed.”
Donald Johnson of Lithonia, a 23-year mail handler at the IRS headquarters in downtown Atlanta, applied for benefits the first week of October and then scrambled to cover an emergency expense.
“I had to call on my family to help me out after a plumbing issue at my house,” he said Tuesday.
“I’m hoping to get my first claim check today.”
The numbers of federal workers applying for jobless benefits are not broken down by county, but career centers were busy during the shutdown.
Unemployment claims are paid by the federal government and administered by the state.
Georgia Department of Labor spokesman Sam Hall said many applications were processed and some furloughed federal workers got UI benefits during the government shutdown.
But he said those employees may have to repay unemployment benefits they received if Congress votes to pay workers retroactively covering the furlough period.