Inslee Expands Unemployment Benefits to Federal Employees Working without Pay
As the most extended ever shutdown in the history of the United States is getting stretched, the woes of the federal employees are getting worse. But, giving some relief Governor Jay Inslee on Thursday announced an expansion of unemployment benefits to federal employees who have been working without pay.
On Friday the federal employees will be missing another payday, and the shutdown is now in its 35th day. The Washington State has begun to see more impacts on the state economy from the loss of federal workers.
Inslee said in a news conference, “This is most unfair and most egregious, there are nearly 16,000 Washingtonians who are about to lose a second paycheck as a result of this federal shutdown.”
Under the new expansion, the essential workers who mandatorily have to work through the shutdown will be allowed to apply for a partial wage replacement backdated to the beginning of the closure.
The essential worker list includes employees of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the FBI, food inspectors and Coast Guard personnel.
The new expansion will be implemented by the state Economic Security Department (ESD), and it aims to help nearly 16,000 federal workers who are not receiving paychecks, according to Inslee and state officials.
“It is the right thing to do,” said Inslee.
As per the data by EDS, federal workers in Washington State have collectively lost $29.3 million per week in wages during the shutdown. And the maximum of the lost wages as high as $16.6 million comes from King County’s 8200 federal workers.
Other Counties as well have been impacted by the shutdown in large numbers. Whatcom County has 1,050 affected employees, Spokane County has 945, Grant County has 634 impacted workers, Snohomish County has 452 federal workers, and Pierce County has 554 federal workers who are affected by the shutdown.
It should be reported here that the new expansion is only for the essential workers. The federal workers who have been furloughed and are not working have already been able to apply for unemployment benefits.
The wage replacement would come from the state’s unemployment trust fund, and the benefitted workers would have to repay the state once they receive their back-pay for lost wages.
According to Suzi LeVine, commissioner of the ESD, the annual average wage of the affected workers in Washington is $82000 per year, but the maximum numbers of workers are under $50000 per year.
LeVine also added that the maximum amount of weekly compensation in unemployment benefits would be $749 a week.
There was also an attempt to end the stalemate through two different resolutions taken yesterday. But, both of these resolutions failed in the U.S. Senate.
The Shutdown has started on the disagreement between the Trump administration and the Congress on funding the border wall.
The shutdown has been preventing the funding of dozens of federal agencies and nine Cabinet-level departments, including those of Agriculture, Homeland Security, Interior, Justice, State, and Transportation.
In Washington State also it has impacted significantly. As per the Governor’s office there a list of events which got affected due to the shutdown. The shutdown has resulted into the cancellation of an annual inspection for one vessel of the Washington State Ferries system, the MV Chimacum. It should be reported here that four other inspections of the vessels- MV Chelan, MV Salish, MV Tillikum and MV Elwha are due this week.
The Alaskan Airlines also has announced that it would be delaying the introduction of its commercial service at Everett’s Paine Field.
At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, some non-regulatory TSA positions are being backfilled by Port of Seattle employees, to help passengers with wait times and staffing shortages.
On Tuesday, there was a demonstration in front of Sea-Tac airport by the aviation employees and their supporters to end the shutdown as soon as possible.
In the meantime, the final report into the 2017 Amtrak derailment south of Tacoma has been delayed as the investigating inspectors at the National Transportation Safety Board are furloughed due to the shutdown.
Among its consequences in Indian Country, the shutdown has created a 23 percent budget shortfall at the Seattle Indian Health Board. It has also stopped timber sales at a Yakama Nation mill and started to have estimated losses to the Colville Confederated Tribes.
Earlier in this month, some of Washington’s national parks had closed, and some wildfire-response training events were canceled. The stoppage of federal money will be hampering efforts to undertake food inspections and detect and stop instances of animal disease.