MONTPELIER — Federal employees working in Vermont without pay during the partial government shutdown will be able to file for unemployment benefits, though they’ll have to pay it back.
Gov. Phil Scott and Department of Labor Commissioner Lindsay Kurrle made the Tuesday announcement.
Kurrle said federal employees deemed “essential” or “excepted” who’ve been working but not receiving a paycheck are eligible to file for unemployment insurance benefits.
They can do so by calling 1 (877) 214-3330 between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Those who do are encouraged to visit the Vermont Department of Labor’s website at bit.ly/NewClaims for information filing an unemployment claim. Doing that will tell a person what they need to have before calling the number, which the department says will reduce wait times.
According to the site, people wishing to file a claim should have the following information ready:
— Their Social Security number.
— Mailing and home addresses.
— Telephone number.
— Their alien registration number if they’re if not a U.S. citizen.
— Their driver’s license number.
— Banking information for direct deposits.
— A military form DD-214, Member 4 Copy if they served in the military in the past 18 months.
— A Form SF-8.
Kurrle said she and Scott first discussed the issue last week while they and others were trying to figure out what the state could do for federal employees affected by the shutdown. She said they approached Legislative leaders with this idea and received support.
“It was a great collaborative effort,” she said. “Everyone wanted to find a path forward that made sense.”
Kurrle said it’s believed there are between 5,000 and 6,000 federal employees working in Vermont. Not all have been affected by the partial shutdown. She said as near as the Department of Labor can figure, between 500 and 1,500 federal workers are working without pay.
She said President Donald Trump signed a bill in mid-January that ensures federal employees will receive any back pay they’re entitled to. Those who receive unemployment insurance benefits who then get back pay will be expected to reimburse the state unemployment fund, Kurrle said, adding this will be made clear up front to those who apply.
Besides applying to employed federal workers, the benefits are the same as any other person would get, Kurrle said. The most a person could receive is $498 per week. How much they actually get depends on a formula. The longest they can be on unemployment is 26 weeks.
Kurrle said she hopes the shutdown ends much sooner than that.
“The core principle of unemployment insurance is to remedy temporary economic hardship created by an unanticipated loss of income,” Kurrle said. “There are Vermonters who have been showing up to work every day, but not getting a paycheck, for more than a month. There is no end in sight for the federal shutdown, and the governor and legislators have asked us to help these individuals feed their families, pay their bills and put gas in their cars.”