Virginia’s furloughed federal employees must reimburse the state for unemployment benefits

By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau

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

Since Washington is paying employees for time lost during the government shutdown, state law says any overlapping unemployment aid 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 in the process.

“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 up coming payday. It was understood upfront that (unemployment benefits) would have to be paid back.”

Kenric Ward is chief of Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau. Contact him at kenric@watchdogvirginia.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward

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