PHOENIX — Federal workers who got time off with pay during the government shutdown won't be double dipping, at least not in Arizona.
The state Department of Economic Security says it will seek repayment from the handful of government employees who got their first unemployment checks before Congress finally agreed to a funding plan. And if the workers don't cough up the money — a maximum of $240 a week — agency spokeswoman Nicole Moon said there are other ways to address the issue.
Moon said 2,144 federal employees in Arizona filed for unemployment benefits between Oct. 1 and Oct. 21.
The state does not pay for the first week of unemployment. Even at that, Moon said 75 federal workers did manage to get claims processed and checks issued beginning the second week, with the state paying out $18,470 in benefits.
Moon said the payments are not a hit to the trust fund that finances jobless benefits, a fund financed by a tax on all private employers. That's because jobless benefits for public employees are a “pass through,” eventually repaid to the state by the government itself.
But the state still wants the money back.
Moon said if the worker balks, DES will contact the federal agency which employs the person and ask that their wages be attached.
“The ability to seek the wage garnishment was provided by the federal government in a policy broadcast to state agencies regarding any overpayment which resulted from the federal shutdown and the subsequent payment of back wages,” she said.
The other federal workers who applied for benefits won't be getting checks in the mail.
“The remaining 2,069 claims filed are being processed and will subsequently be denied due to the shutdown no longer being in effect and workers receiving back pay,” Moon said.