Federal workers must repay unemployment

Published 9:20 pm Tuesday, October 22, 2013

By Kenric Ward


Federal workers who received some $2 million in Virginia unemployment benefits must return the money to Richmond … or else.

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Since Washington is paying employees for furlough days during the government shutdown, state law says any overlapping unemployment has to be reimbursed by recipients.

“We’ll send letters saying they were overpaid, and by how much,” Joyce Fogg, spokeswoman for the Virginia Employment Commission, told Watchdog.org. “Hopefully, they’ll send back a check.”

If checks aren’t forthcoming, Fogg said disputes would go to a collection agency, or to court. She estimated that up to 6,200 federally employed Virginia residents applied for unemployment assistance during the furlough. The maximum weekly benefit is $378.

Virginia’s stance is tougher than some states. Out on the West Coast, Oregon has informed its 1,200 federal workers that they can keep their full unemployment benefits, on top of their back pay.

Virginia has a one-week waiting period before workers can apply for unemployment assistance. That delay, plus the Columbus Day holiday, left barely more than a week of benefit eligibility during the government shutdown, Fogg said.

C.J. Whitt, a Virginian who works for the federal government, told Watchdog there were no surprises regarding furlough days.

“All federal employees get back pay, and no one went without getting a check at all,” Whitt said. “We get our back pay prior to the upcoming payday. It was understood up front that (unemployment benefits) would have to be paid back.”