TWIN FALLS • More than 1,100 furloughed federal employees in Idaho have applied for unemployment benefits since the U.S. government shutdown went into effect Oct. 1, state officials said.
Federal employees not considered essential during the shutdown were given indefinite furloughs until Congress passes a budget. They are now considered unemployed and eligible for state unemployment insurance benefits.
A little less than 100 federal employees have applied for unemployment out of the approximate 1,700 federal workforce in the Magic Valley, said Jan Roeser, regional economist with the Idaho Department of Labor.
“You’re not going to see every federal employee claim unemployment insurance,” Roeser said. “If they get back pay, they have to return what they got from unemployment. It’s going to be a hassle.”
But, with no sign of Congress resolving its differences with the White House anytime soon, furloughed workers are expected to start filing for unemployment as the shutdown persists.
However, once a federal employees apply for unemployment benefits, claimants must wait one full week before receiving payments. That means if someone filed the first week of the shutdown, the earliest he would get a check would be on Oct. 17.
Yet the unemployment checks won’t be similar to the paychecks federal employees are used to seeing.
The average annual federal government wage in the Magic Valley is $60,000, which comes to about $1,250 per week. The most an Idahoan will receive per week in unemployment is $357.
Temporary employment agencies also haven’t seen a large spike in furloughed workers looking for some extra income.
“I’ve had maybe two people who have been furloughed come in,” said Marcus Lutz, branch manager at Gem State Staffing. “And they were only looking for temporary work because they have a job to go back to after the shutdown.“