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Furloughed feds might have to repay unemployment benefits

Oct. 18, 2013 - 02:21PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
Elaine Kaplan, the acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, released pay and benefits guidelines for federal employees affected by the government shutdown.
Elaine Kaplan, the acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, released pay and benefits guidelines for federal employees affected by the government shutdown. (Jill DiPasquale / File)

Federal employees furloughed during the partial government shutdown might have to repay any state unemployment benefits received during that time, according to guidelines released Friday by the Office of Personnel Management.

Because Congress has agreed to give furloughed workers back pay for their forced time off, agencies must check to see whether any staff filed unemployment claims in their respective states while out of work, the guidance says. If so, the agency must tell the state the amount of the back pay received and for what period of time. Although regulations vary around the country, it’s generally the job of the state unemployment insurance to recover any overpayment, according to OPM.

About 800,000 federal workers were furloughed at some point during the 16-day shutdown, which ended Thursday, according to unofficial estimates. Just in the Washington, D.C., metro area, thousands filed unemployment claims, although it’s unclear how many actually received a check.

The six pages of guidelines released Friday are intended to help agencies address pay-and-benefits questions for both employees furloughed during the shutdown and those who had to keep working, acting OPM Director Elaine Kaplan said in an accompanying memo for agency chief human capital officers. More than a dozen other topics are also covered.

Most workers, for example, will be paid for the Oct. 14 Columbus Day holiday. Before Congress agreed to back pay, OPM had said that only employees required to work that day on essential assignments would be paid.

And in cases where employees have to use accrued vacation days by a fixed deadline or lose it, agencies should make “every effort” to reschedule the leave before the deadline. If that’s not possible, however, agencies may consider restoring the lost vacation time, according to Kaplan’s guidance.

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