Washington, DC – U.S. Rep Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce) has introduced “The Shutdown Fairness Act,” H.R. 1117, a bill to clarify that federal employees forced to work without pay during government shutdowns are eligible for earned unemployment benefits.
These benefits effectively operate as a no-interest loan to keep people on their feet, and are paid back once backpay is received.
States like California, Colorado, Washington, and Vermont all took action to extend this lifeline to employees working without pay during the last government shutdown, but President Trump has threatened to penalize them for their action.
Democratic negotiators fought to include this bill in the government funding deal passed Thursday by the House and Senate, but it was barred from inclusion in the final package.
“In California, our Governor, Gavin Newsom, ensured that those who worked without pay could be compensated by the same unemployment funds that protected our furloughed workers. This is an issue of basic fairness and common decency,” Hill said.
“No kid should miss a meal and no family should worry about paying rent because of Washington’s political games,” she said. “Whether they worked without pay or were sent home, this financial hardship was through no fault of our American workers. I’m proud to introduce this legislation to stop this from ever happening again, and I stand with my fellow colleagues who are also working hard to tackle this critical problem.”
California Gavin Newsom took bold steps to ensure Californian federal employees received unemployment benefits during the shutdown.
“I am grateful for Congresswoman Hill’s efforts to ensure California’s unemployment insurance program is reimbursed for providing benefits to federal workers affected by the government shutdown. States like California should not be penalized for lending a helping hand to workers who were put in financial distress by partisan gridlock,” Newsom said.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) championed this issue in the Senate.
“Federal employees who have to show up to work during a government shutdown – helping keep us safe in the sky and at home – should have access to the same financial lifeline their furloughed colleagues do,” he said.
“Federal workers on the job and unpaid deserve the same benefits as workers sent home — all through no choice of their own. During this recent shutdown, when I met with air traffic controllers and TSA security screeners who told me that they weren’t able to access unemployment benefits because they’re still going to work, I was stunned – and I remain determined to fix this fundamental unfairness,” Blumenthal said. “This bill makes a simple clarification to existing law to ensure that all federal employees are able to access unemployment compensation benefits when they’re caught in the middle of a government shutdown. A missed paycheck is a missed paycheck, whether you are working without pay or furloughed.”
Despite being excluded from the government funding deal, support for this legislation was found throughout the Caucus, specifically by legislators who have been leaders on this issue.
“States should not be penalized simply for doing what’s right by offering assistance during a government shutdown to federal employees working without paychecks,” said Representative Suzan DelBene (WA-01). “I’m happy to see Rep. Katie Hill take a leadership role on this important issue, and am committed to helping her pass the Shutdown Fairness Act.”
“It was unconscionable that President Trump forced hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors to suffer through the longest government shutdown in our history, with no means to provide for themselves or their families,” said Representative Anthony G. Brown (MD-04). “If President Trump is committed to shutting down government and holding federal workers hostage again, we must do everything we can to provide support and relief. I’m proud to join Congresswoman Hill on this important legislation to support the men and women who serve our country every day by securing our food, our water, our airports, and our communities.”
“Even a partial government shutdown can have a devastating impact on the men and women who serve our federal government and their families, leaving them with uncertainty and limited options for help,” said Representative Ed Perlmutter (CO-07).
“That is why we must ensure all federal employees – including those who are forced to work during a shutdown without knowing when they will get paid – are eligible to receive unemployment benefits from their state,” he said. “We can never allow dysfunction in Washington D.C. to jeopardize the livelihoods of our federal government employees,”
Upon its introduction on Friday, Feb. 8, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Ways & Means for further action.