The federal government shutdown has prompted big cutbacks at the state Employment Security Department, which on Tuesday put half of its 1,669 staffers on furlough or reduced hours. About 833 workers are affected by the cutbacks, including about half who are working at 50 percent or 60 percent of full time and the other half who are furloughed…
OLYMPIA – More than 400 state workers were furloughed Tuesday and another 450 had their hours reduced because of the federal government shutdown, the state Employment Security Department said. The ESD, which processes unemployment claims, gets about 87 percent of its funding from the federal government, the Seattle Times said.
How does the federal shutdown affect Employment Security?
Due to the federal shutdown, we’re no longer receiving federal funds to cover our unemployment-benefits and tax operations. In order to continue these critical services, we have laid off or reduced the hours of 50 percent of Employment Security staff who are not directly involved in processing benefit claims or collecting taxes. Only services that are funded, plus essential administrative support for the funded services, will be continued until a federal budget is approved.
Will unemployment benefits continue to be paid during the federal shutdown?
The federal government is continuing to provide money for unemployment benefits, but is not providing funds to cover the administrative cost of processing those claims. For the time being, we’ve decided to maintain these critical services using our limited state funds. Therefore, unemployment benefits will continue to be paid for at least a few more weeks.
Will WorkSource remain open?
WorkSource offices remain open for now, but with reduced capacity.
WorkSource is a partnership, where multiple state agencies and local organizations deliver a mix of employment and worker-training services throughout the state. The major partners are Employment Security and the 12 local workforce development councils. At this time:
- Employment Security has federal funds available to maintain job-search services through next June, but some of our specialized funding streams are not available until Congress approves a budget (e.g., veterans employment services, labor-market information, etc.). Therefore, some of our capacity and expertise in the WorkSource centers was reduced beginning Oct. 8.
- The workforce development councils also have lost access to much of their federal funding due to the federal shutdown. Contact them individually for information about their current status.
What isn’t getting done right now?
- Unemployment-insurance fraud investigations are suspended.
- Unemployment benefits overpayments and penalties aren’t being collected.
- The second level of benefits appeals (Commissioner’s Review Office) is not available. Those appeals are on hold.
- Claims staff can’t get assistance with benefits policy questions.
- Labor-market data aren’t being updated, and reports aren’t being completed. (E.g., We won’t be able to release the September employment report next week.)
- VISTA volunteers are still performing their community service, but they’re not getting their stipends.
- Legislation isn’t getting implemented, including related communications and resources for employers and unemployed workers.
- Most of our Lean improvement projects are inactive.
- WorkSource employment services have been reduced by 15-25 percent in most WorkSource offices (with a few over 30%).
- All veterans employment specialists have been furloughed.
- Employer tax audits aren’t being conducted.
- Only critical technology outages are being addressed. Technology improvements are on hold.
- A wide range of federal reporting requirements aren’t being met, which could have repercussions down the line.
- Technical assistance to workforce development councils is unavailable.
- Unemployment-insurance orientation workshops have been suspended at WorkSource.
Please continue to monitor this website for updates.