The Obama administration is under fire for not pressing federal workers furloughed during the 16-day government shutdown to return unemployment benefits even though they are also receiving back pay, effectively providing extra money for not working.
A letter signed by the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and several members to the Office of Management and Budget called it “a totally unfair form of double dipping.”
At issue is how the 400,000 furloughed workers are categorized. While they have to return unemployment checks when they receive back pay, because the workers were not “performing a service,” at least one and possibly more states will allow them to keep the unemployment money on top of the back pay Congress and the White House have agreed to fund.
A frustrated Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Dave Camp told Secrets, “It is absolutely inexcusable that the Obama administration would even consider allowing employees who were furloughed, and who are getting back pay because Congress took action, to also keep their UI benefits. Under that scheme you get paid not just once, but twice, not to work. Where is the logic in that? It is that kind of misuse of taxpayer dollars that the American people hate about Washington, and we need to stop this practice now.”
In the letter, as seen below, from his committee, OMB is being urged to tell states that provided the unemployment to get it back.
“Specifically,” said the letter to OMB Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell, “you could provide federal findings to states that paying unemployment benefits — on top of back pay — to recently furloughed federal employees would constitute a misuse of taxpayer funds, and that any benefits that have been paid should be recovered.”
The letter said letting federal workers keep both checks “makes no sense.” It added, “Since unemployment benefits are keyed to replace roughly half of an employee’s prior pay, this practice would amount to paying furloughed federal employees time and a half for not working.”
A recent USA Today story said that some states allow federal workers to double dip because of the confusion over their work status. If they are considered not “performing a service,” then the unemployment is legitimate, officials said.
Camp’s letter said that the unemployment benefits must be returned “so that we maintain the integrity of the unemployment insurance system for those it is intended to serve — unemployed individuals who have been laid off through no fault of their own, and not temporarily furloughed federal employees who have already received back pay.Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.