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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: February 27, 2019 08:30 AM
From: Senator Anthony H. Williams
To: All Senate members
Subject: Unemployment Compensation for Essential Federal Employees
In the near future, I will be introducing legislation designed to protect Pennsylvanians from interruptions in pay caused by national politics, treating “essential employees” equal to those deemed non-essential during federal government shutdowns.

The federal government was shut down from December 22, 2018 until January 25, 2019, the longest partial shutdown in our nation’s history, over a political dispute between Congress and the President. During those 35 days, over 800,000 employees and millions of government contractors were idled; a subset of those workers deemed “essential,” including the U.S. Coast Guard, air traffic controllers, and IRS agents, were required to report to work without pay. While those asked to stay home could apply for unemployment benefits, states were given guidance forbidding the same for federal government employees required to work.

Despite this guidance, the Governors of several states, including California, New Mexico, Colorado, Vermont, Washington, and Louisiana announced prior to the re-opening of the government that they would treat essential employees equal to those furloughed for the purposes of unemployment compensation. Legislation to authorize such is currently moving through Maryland's General Assembly.

My legislation would authorize unemployment compensation benefits to those federal government employees who continue to serve without pay through shutdowns. Similar to furloughed workers, these funds would be subject to repayment if and when the government reopens and employees are given back pay.

I hope you will join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation. Questions or comments may be directed to my legislative office at 717-787-5970. Thank you.