A Maryland congressman is trying to ensure unemployment benefits for all federal workers
Thousands of federal employees will receive paystubs for $0 on Friday, the second time in little more than a month. Many of them, despite bringing in no income, are unable to access unemployment benefits as the shutdown drags on.
Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD) introduced legislation Thursday in an effort to remedy that. The bill, should it be signed into law, would guarantee access to unemployment for all federal employees. Right now, only furloughed employees — those deemed “non-essential” — can receive benefits. Employees deemed “essential,” such as TSA staff, cannot, because the law currently considers essential employees “employed,” even though they are not being paid.
“As the shutdown enters its 34th day, it’s unconscionable that the Trump administration is forcing hundreds of thousands of federal employees to work without providing a means for them to support themselves and their families,” Brown said in a statement. “If the President is going to continue to hold federal employees hostage, then we will ensure they are provided for during his shutdown. It’s deeply disturbing the President is proud of the human suffering he has created, and we will do everything we can to provide support and relief.”
The number of furloughed federal employees filing for unemployment has skyrocketed since the start of the shutdown, Politico reported Thursday. According to the outlet, more than 25,000 had filed as of January 12, and 10,500 filed the week prior. During the same time last year, just 1,700 federal employees filed for unemployment, the report stated.
That data, of course, is nearly two weeks old, as Politico noted, and the number of employees who have filed in the days since could be even higher.
An estimated 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or forced to work without pay since the start of the shutdown in December. And it isn’t just federal employees who are being hurt by the lapse in funding: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is about to run out of money, which could leave 19 million families who rely on the program for food in limbo.
Last Friday, domestic violence shelters funded by the Department of Justice were also cut off, and the FDA has stopped routine inspections of seafood, fruits, and vegetables, among a long list of other major issues.
The Senate voted on a pair of competing bills Thursday afternoon to re-open the government. Lawmakers rejected a GOP-led bill, backed by President Donald Trump, that would have provided $5.7 billion in funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall in exchange for certain protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. Critics noted the bill would have negatively impacted Central American asylum seekers and the asylum process as a whole.
Senators have yet to vote on a dueling House-passed continuing resolution that would fund portions of the government through February 8, though it is also expected to fail.