The 2018-2019 government shutdown has already broken records as the longest in U.S. history, and many feds are looking to find ways to supplement their income while their government paychecks are on hold.
But the options feds have for career changes during the shutdown are limited, if employees want to keep their government jobs when their agencies reopen.
Whether or not furloughed federal employees can file for unemployment depends largely on the rules of the state they work in, as most states require an applicant to prove they are looking for alternative employment before granting unemployment benefits.
Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., have already indicated that they will waive unemployment requirements that applicants be looking for new work for federal employees furloughed by the shutdown.
During the shutdown, most federal agencies are allowing their impacted employees to take other jobs to supplement their income, the search for which may meet the unemployment requirements for other states.
But feds have to be especially careful about following the ethics rules prohibiting them from taking jobs that conflict with their federal position, since ethics advisers may not be available for consultation.
Federal employees that are required to work without pay will likely not be able to also file for employment.
“If employees are performing excepted work on an intermittent basis, they may qualify for unemployment compensation. However, employees performing excepted work on a full-time basis are generally not eligible for unemployment compensation,” a Jan. 18 Office of Personnel Management fact sheet on the shutdown said.
Because Congress has passed legislation guaranteeing back pay for feds once the shutdown ends, any employee that received unemployment benefits will have to pay back the system once they receive their paychecks.
Federal employees who choose to leave their government jobs and find work elsewhere should still be entitled to that back pay for the time they remained in federal employment on furlough status once the shutdown ends.
Federal employees who are transferring jobs from one agency to the next may or may not experience a delay, depending on when their transfer date was supposed to take place.
“The effective date of a transfer is determined jointly by the losing and gaining agencies. In cases where the transfer is between agencies that are both subject to the lapse in appropriations, agencies should consider delaying the entrance-on-duty date and keep the employee on the roles of the current agency until the lapse ends and a new start date can be confirmed,” an OPM spokesperson told Federal Times.
“In cases where the employee is transferring to an agency that is not impacted by the lapse, that transfer can continue as scheduled and the losing agency can process the transfer paperwork once the lapse has ended. If both agencies did not agree to a transfer date prior to the furlough, the transfer may need to be delayed if the losing agency’s HR staff is not available to negotiate the release date.”
This means that feds who apply for and are offered positions at non-shutdown agencies may not be able to start their new positions until the shutdown ends anyway, if the agency they are leaving does not have HR staff working through the shutdown.
Jessie Bur covers the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees.