This blog post was updated Jan. 29, 2019
Question: I am a federal worker who has been furloughed. Am I eligible for unemployment?
Answer: Yes. You are considered laid off due to lack of work and you need to meet personal and monetary eligibility. However as a federal employee, you also need to be aware of several unintended consequences of applying for unemployment insurance benefits.
Before you apply, please consider the following:
- You will not receive your first unemployment insurance payment for approximately three weeks after you file for benefits.
- If the federal government compensates you or back pays you for the work you missed during the furlough (as it has historically), you will be required to disclose your payment information to the department and repay any unemployment insurance benefits you collect during that time.
- You are required to seek work and make at least two job contacts per week.
Q. Once the shutdown is over, if the federal government back pays us for our time away from work, is this income reportable? If so, how should I report my income?
A. Yes. If you receive your back pay, call us at (208) 332-8942 and let us know.
Q. Once the shutdown is over, if the federal government back pays us for our time away from work, do I have to repay benefits?
A. Yes. For unemployment insurance purposes, any back pay you receive from the federal government is reportable income for the weeks you are furloughed and will result in an overpayment of benefits. Please be aware that unpaid overpayments accrue interest of about 11 percent after 30 days from the overpayment establishment. If you have an outstanding overpayment balance, the department will seize your state tax refund, potentially delaying your refund. If your overpayment balance exceeds $350, you must contact us at (208) 332-3842 to set up a repayment agreement that does not exceed three months to avoid a lien being filed against you.
Q: I received a letter from the department instructing me to attend a scheduled in-person interview at the local office in order to continue receiving benefits. I am a furloughed federal worker who has returned to work. Do I have to attend even though I am back to work?
A: If you are fully employed now, there is no reason to attend the interview. If you are laid off again within the next year, you must attend the in-person interview before you will be allowed unemployment insurance benefits. If you are laid off in the future, you need to contact your local office to reschedule your in-person interview the week you reopen your claim.
Q. How do I cancel my claim once I return to work?
A. When you return to work, simply stop filing your weekly reports. Once you haven’t filed for two consecutive weeks, your claim will go inactive. Even though you are no longer claiming, be sure to keep your contact information up to date to receive year-end tax information. If you become unemployed again, you must reopen your claim at labor.idaho.gov/claimantportal during the first week you become unemployed or underemployed. You are required to reopen your claim in order to submit your weekly certifications.
Question: What if I am one of the “essential” federal workers who are required to continue to work full time with no pay?
A: You would not be eligible for benefits if you are working full time, regardless of pay. Full time is normally defined as 40 hours per week.
If you decide to apply for unemployment insurance benefits, please read the following:
Q. How do I file for benefits?
A. You must file online at labor.idaho.gov/claimantportal. We do not file claims over the telephone. If you do not have internet access or need help filing online, you may file at your nearest local Idaho Department of Labor office. Our local offices will be closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day.
After you successfully file your initial claim, you need to file weekly continued claim reports at labor.idaho.gov/claimantportal. Check out these helpful videos for instructions on how to file for benefits and what to expect. ow.ly/pEO6Pow.ly/i/3nvw0
Q. When should I file for benefits?
A. For those most recently laid off, you must file your initial claim by midnight on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018. This step is essential for making sure you receive credit for your waiting week.
Q. What if I don’t have a computer or internet access?
A. We have computers available in all of our local offices.
Q. What information do I need in order to file?
A. You will need your work history information for the past two years including employer names, addresses, phone numbers, supervisors and dates of employment; your current contact information; your driver’s license or state ID number and work authorization information, if applicable; and bank account information if you choose direct deposit to receive your payments. Once you gather all the information, filing a claim online should take about 30 minutes. Copies of your leave and earning statements are not necessary.
Q. Do I have to look for work if I file for unemployment benefits?
A. Yes. If you do not have a definite return to full-time work date, you must look for a job and make at least two job contacts per week. Keep a record of your contacts.
Q. When I file my claim, what option should I choose as my reason for separation from the federal government?
A. If you are unemployed due to the current federal government shutdown, please select “laid off due to lack of work” for your separation reason.
Q. What should we put in the “approximate date to start full-time work” section?
A. When you file your online application, you will be asked if you have a definite date to return to full-time work. If your employer has provided you this date, select yes and enter the date. If not, answer no to this question. If your employer has not provided you a return to full-time work date, you will be required to seek work (see the ‘Do I have to look for work?’ question above).
Q. I received a letter titled “monetary determination.” It shows my weekly eligibility amount is $ .00 and my maximum benefit amount is $ .00. Does this mean I will not receive any unemployment while I am furloughed?
A. If you are a federal employee, your wages are not immediately available to us when you file your claim. We have to request your wage information from the federal government. When you file a claim, you will be sent a letter called a monetary determination stating you are eligible for $0 with an explanation there are wages pending from the federal government. Once we receive wage information, we will send you a second monetary determination with the wage information they reported to us. Despite the federal shutdown, we are getting responses to wage requests. It is important you continue filing your weekly reports at labor.idaho.gov/claimantportal, while you wait for your new monetary determination. If you file your weekly reports and are otherwise eligible, you will receive payments for compensable weeks filed once we receive your wage information. It can take up to three weeks to receive your wage information. If your monetary determination did not state that federal wages are pending, please call us at (208) 332-8942.
Q. When will federal employees receive their first payment?
A. Normally, a payment is issued about three weeks after submitting an initial application. If you applied for benefits during the week of Dec. 23-Dec. 29, 2018, it would be your first week of unemployment and potentially serve as your waiting week (see waiting week criteria above). The next week would be your second week of unemployment and the first potential payable week. Payment is normally available within three to four business days after your waiting week and first payment. If you signed up for direct deposit, payment is normally available within four business days of filing your weekly report. If you did not sign up for direct deposit, you will be mailed a debit card. Normally people receive this debit card 7-10 business days after filing their 2nd weekly report. After you receive your debit card, payment will then normally be available within four business days of filing your weekly report.
Q. Are unemployment insurance benefits taxable?
A. Yes. Unemployment benefits are treated as taxable income. After you file your claim, you will have the option to have either 10 percent or 0 percent federal taxes withheld from your payment. Log into the claimant portal at labor.idaho.gov/claimantportal and select ‘Manage Claims’ to have federal taxes withheld from your payment. If you have to repay benefits, you will have to repay the gross amount however, as we are unable to recoup the 10 percent for you. You will receive a 1099G at the end of the year with your tax information.
Q. I am about to be furloughed. The employer has given me the option of using my accrued vacation pay while we are shut down. Can I still collect unemployment if I don’t use my vacation pay?
A. Yes. For unemployment insurance purposes, you are not required to use vacation pay.
Q. If I chose to use vacation pay, can I collect unemployment insurance?
A. It depends on how much you are paid in vacation leave. If your vacation pay is an amount that is one and a half times your unemployment insurance weekly benefit amount, it is not a compensable week — meaning you received too much money for an unemployment insurance payment or waiting week credit that week. In order to be eligible for benefits, you also must be fully available for work. It is important that you remain available for work and express your availability for work to your employer, even though you have elected to be paid vacation.
Update: As of Jan. 24, 2019, 876 federal workers have filed unemployment insurance claims in Idaho.
Idaho Department of Labor