SALEM – Federal workers who collected state unemployment benefits in Oregon during the government shutdown will soon be getting a letter asking for the money back.
At the end of the 16-day federal shutdown on Oct. 1, Tom Fuller, Communications Director for the Oregon Employment Department, told KGW that federal employees wouldn’t have to repay their state unemployment because there was never any guarantee furloughed workers would get back pay.
"There's a rule in place. It was designed to protect private employees who had no guarantee of returning to their job," Fuller told KGW at the time. "We have to apply it. We don't have a choice in this case."
On Thursday, however, the U.S. Department of Labor issued guidance to Oregon that changed the status of furloughed federal workers.
During the period of the shutdown, federal workers were considered employed and got back pay; therefore, they were not eligible for unemployment insurance benefits, the guidelines state.
Around 733 federal workers made an initial unemployment claim, which they will have to immediately pay back.
The state now must sort through an additional 1,153 reopened claims for unemployment insurance, some of which were for seasonal layoffs and won't have to be repaid.
The state doled out a total of $839,243 in unemployment benefits to federal workers during the shutdown.