Thousands of federal employees and their families are applying for unemployment and food stamps to get by as the longest government shutdown in U.S. history drags on with no end in sight. But for some of them, it has been an exercise in confusion and frustration.
Others, meanwhile, are hesitant to apply, knowing they will have to pay back the unemployment benefits when they finally return to work.
The U.S. Labor Department on Thursday reported that the number of furloughed federal employees seeking unemployment benefits has jumped, from fewer than a thousand per week before the shutdown to more than 10,000 during the week that ended Jan. 5.
The nearly 4-week-old stalemate over President Donald Trump’s demand for funding for a border wall affects about 800,000 employees. When it started, roughly 420,000 were told to work without being paid, and 380,000 others were sent home with no pay. Some of those numbers have shifted in the past week as agencies such as the IRS have called tens of thousands back to work.
Trump signed legislation Wednesday to guarantee employees will be given back pay once the shutdown ends. But that also means those who obtain unemployment benefits to get by in the meantime will have to repay the money.
The Labor Department has said that federal employees who aren’t working during the shutdown can collect unemployment, while those who are on the job without pay cannot.
On Friday, 385 business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to Congress and the White House urging an end to the government shutdown by finding a compromise that will be signed into law.
All 50 states, D.C., and Guam are represented on the letter. The signatures were collected over a 24-hour period, and the letter remains open for additional signatories.
Locally, several groups are offering services to those impacted by the shutdown.
Tanger Outlets Fort Worth will be offering TANGERCARES Free $20 gift cards to federal government employees impacted by the government shutdown. TangerCARES is Tanger’s program for its area communities.
“Through TangerCARES, Tanger Outlets is committed to helping those in the communities in which we operate,” said Steven B. Tanger, CEO of Tanger Outlets. “During this difficult time we want to show support for government workers impacted by the shutdown.”
To receive their gift card, recipients can visit shopper services with their valid government ID. Some exclusions may apply.
On Jan. 17, Abilene-based First Financial Bankshares Inc. announced plans to offer assistance to customers affected by the government shutdown.
“We are concerned for our customers affected by the government shutdown and are committed to serving as a source of assistance at this time,” said Martin J. Noto, Jr., president and CEO – Fort Worth Region. “Missing a paycheck can put stress on families across the country and we hope to lessen that burden by aiding those customers in need.”
Assistance offered includes personal lines of credit and loan deferment options.
Individuals directly impacted by the partial government shutdown are encouraged to visit www.ffin.com/governmentshutdown
If you are involved in a loan guaranteed by the Small Business Administration, BBVA Compass said that is one area where there may be some processing slowdowns, particularly in processing applications and funding loans, according to a spokesman.
TXU Energy, the Irving-based energy retail subsidiary of Vistra Energy (NYSE: VST), on Jan. 18 announced a series of energy assistance programs intended to assist customers who have been adversely impacted by the extended federal government shutdown. The announcement is intended to expand awareness of these efforts, respond to customer inquiries, and ensure impacted customers are informed and able to avail themselves of all available options.
On Jan. 19, former President George W. Bush treated his Secret Service detail to pizza to show his appreciation for their service without paychecks during the partial government shutdown.
On Jan. 18, as many as 200 federal workers at Dallas Love Field have been treated to hot dogs and hamburgers donated by members of the city’s aviation department during the partial government shutdown.
Department spokesman Chris Perry says Friday’s free lunch was meant to help federal workers on duty at the Dallas-owned airport but not getting paid. The lunch benefited TSA, Federal Aviation Administration and Customs and Border Protection employees.
Perry says members of the aviation department donated money or food to support the federal workers amid the government shutdown that began Dec. 22.
A grill was set up outside the terminal but inside the airport fence line. Food was provided in a break room used by federal workers on various shifts.
About $500 was donated to help buy groceries.