Some federal agencies are allowing workers to group their furlough days off in one-week blocks, enabling them to recoup some of their lost wages through unemployment benefits.
In many states, workers who lose a full week of wages at one time can be considered on temporary layoff, reports CNN
. Even then, employees recoup only a fraction of their pay.
"It's not a pound-for-pound thing," said Gregory Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers union. The union has an agreement with the Navy to allow its civilian workers to take their furlough days in one-week blocks.
"It's essentially something people get in order to live on while they're going through this tough time," Junemann continued. "Remember, these are essentially middle-class people. They don't take this money and invest it in property in the Bahamas. They're buying groceries."
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The Department of Labor is encouraging federal workers to research the unemployment rules in their own states, and cautions that some states could become so bogged down with furloughed workers' claims that benefit checks may be delayed.
California, Virginia, Texas, and the District of Columbia have the most federal workers, but have not yet reported receiving claims from furloughed employees. However, New York has seen an increase in benefit claims due to furloughs. Federal workers there qualify for partial unemployment if their pay falls below $405 in a shortened work week.
"The best advice we tell everyone is that they should file a claim and our reps will determine if they are eligible," New York Department of Labor spokesman Chris White said. "There are many factors that can affect a claim, as you can imagine."
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