In the wake of the government shutdown, state unemployment offices are being flooded with furloughed federal workers.
Many states do not have the capacity to thoroughly vet all of the applicants seeking jobless benefits, which opens the door to potential fraud, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Typically when laid-off workers apply for unemployment benefits, they must produce proper documentation, including pay stubs, to prove their previous employment and income information. However, the recent surge of applicants has made it difficult for some states to look through all of the paper work.
Instead some states are basing the benefits program off of the honor system.
California is one of the states that will be hit the hardest due to the government shutdown. The state is home to as many as 245,000 federal workers who could be furloughed for an indefinite period of time. The state, which the Journal notes was “already struggling to manage daily workload,” will now be burdened with even more benefits candidates.
Maryland scrambled to find enough staff members to handle the influx of 10,600 federal workers who applied for unemployment benefits this week. This more than three times the number of federal applicants they get in an average year.
“We’re overwhelmed,” David McGlone, the Maryland labor department’s acting assistant secretary for unemployment insurance told the WSJ. “We’re putting in a lot of overtime. We’re doing the best we can.”
In some situations state unemployment offices have no choice but to take an applicant’s word because of the vagueness of their furlough documentation.
Steve Pritchett, a National Weather Service meteorologist, told the WSJ, “My furlough notice doesn’t even have my name on it. I don’t know if that’s good enough for state or not.”
An additional wrinkle in an already complicated situation is that there is a growing chance the government will back pay its 800,000 nonessential employees. In this case, states would need to track down furloughed individuals who received federal jobless benefits.
The White House on Friday endorsed legislation that would compensate furloughed workers for the days they were forced to miss due to the government shutdown.
Congress is scheduled to vote on giving furloughed workers back pay Saturday.
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