Washington state expands unemployment aid to more federal workers without paychecks

OLYMPIA, Wash. — There are an estimated 16,000 people in Washington state affected by the government shutdown.

Those federal workers who have been furloughed, forced to sit home without pay, can collect unemployment benefits. But Transportation Security Administration agents and other federal employees who have been deemed essential employees are required to work without pay. Under the usual rules, people who work are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

“You do not require people to work in this nation and not pay them a wage,” declared Gov. Jay Inslee.

Today, the state changed the rules so that even those federal employees who are forced to work for free can now qualify.

"The maximum benefit that people can get on a weekly basis in Washington state is $749,” said Employee Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine

They will have to pay the money back when the shutdown is over.

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​“We also understand that individuals may not be able to pay it all back at once, and so we will work with them on the payment plans that work best for them and for their expenditures,” Levine said.

Despite the disruption to workers, Inslee believes his fellow Democrats in Congress should hold firm against President Donald Trump's demand for a $5 billion border wall.

“Reopen government, get these people paid for the work they do today and then they can go argue about border security,” he said.

Employees required to work without pay during the shutdown can apply online immediately for unemployment benefits at this link.