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Employment Security benefits may be available for workers impacted by gov’t shutdown

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The Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) has provided information regarding unemployment benefits for federal workers affected by the partial government shutdown which, as of today, is in its 18th day.

Parts of the federal government shut down December 22nd after
Congress and the President were unable to come to agreement on appropriations legislation to fund federal government operations and agencies. During extended shutdowns, which have occurred several times since 1980, hundreds of thousands of federal employees deemed to be ‘nonessential’ are furloughed without pay and told to stay home.

While back pay is expected to be paid once Congress and the President come to terms and the shutdown ends, furloughed workers need to find ways to stay financially afloat during the gap between the start and the end dates of the shutdown until any back pay arrives.

According to the ESD, some federal workers may be eligible to collect unemployment benefits to carry them through the furlough period. Per the ESD website,

  • Since furloughed federal workers are unemployed through no fault of their own and are available to work, they may be eligible for benefits – assuming they meet other basic eligibility requirements.
  • Applicants should report the separation from employer as a “lack of work” and not select “strike/lockout” or “fired.” ESD explains that this is appropriate since the furlough is not the result of a labor dispute (strike or lockout) and they have not been fired from their jobs.
  • Furloughed federal workers may be placed on “standby” status which means they will not have to look for work while receiving unemployment benefits for up to four weeks.
  • When the shutdown ends and furloughed federal workers receive back pay for any days they were paid unemployment benefits, they must report those earnings and will be required to pay back the benefits received during that time.

Federal workers can apply for unemployment benefits online at or by phone at 800-318-6022.

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