Furloughed federal workers file for unemployment, run into roadblocks

Bud Foster package government shutdown

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Federal workers who are furloughed and not working, are eligible for Arizona state unemployment benefits.

Kristen Randall applied for those benefits on December 28th, 2018. Now, on January 14, 2019, she still has not been approved.

In order to get approval, she would need to produce a pay stub proving she was working and to corroborate her earnings.

“The only way to access that pay stub is to log into your government device,” she said. “Which we are barred from doing at this time.”

She and her husband are both scientists for the USGS. Both are furloughed without pay.

“The hard thing is, for a lot of us, we need money now,” she said. “You have mortgage and your car payments and your college loans.”

The maximum unemployment for the state is $240 a week.

It’s just one of the obstacles the workers are encountering.

Some have thought of getting a second job but government rules preclude that in most cases.

“If you attempt to take a job as a furloughed worker, it cannot be during those hours you would ordinarily be scheduled to work,” said Paul Stapleton-Smith, Chair of the Pima Labor Federation.

That means for most workers, a bar tending job at night would be okay if it did not violate government ethics. But a substitute teaching job during the day would be a violation.

It would be up to the ethics counsel from the various departments to determine which jobs would violate ethical standards but the ethics offices are on furlough too.

Trying to find a temporary job may be difficult as well. The owners of the Temp Connection in Tucson says the government workers may be called back to work anytime meaning they would not be able to fulfill a labor contract for a guaranteed amount of time.

Stapleton-Smith says they are learning along with everyone else as the shutdown continues.

In day 24, the furloughed workers are in uncharted territory and it’s beginning to take a toll, especially mentally.

“They’re angry, some of them are filled with desperation, some of them are absolutely terrified,” he said. “They just don’t know what the final solution is going to be.”

And for some, the frustration continues to mount.

For Randall, the fact she, as a scientist, is considered a non-essential worker “hurts.”

“I didn’t think it was going to come to this and I would rather clean houses that apply for the help,” she said. “But I have to pay my mortgage.”

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