Yes. If an employee is terminated or laid off from his position by no fault of his own, he is entitled to collect unemployment insurance benefits. A furlough or lay off from a government position due to the current shutdown in Washington is no different.
Although several states have issued policy statements about whether federal employees may collect unemployment benefits during the furlough, Wisconsin has not. The states that have issued statements have indicated that workers should apply for benefits. Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance webpage merely reads, “October 1, 2013: Federal Government shutdown will not impact payment of Wisconsin Unemployment Benefits”.
But what about the federal employees who are not working and not receiving paychecks until the federal budget passes? The normal unemployment application procedure applies, and entitlement to benefits is pursuant to state law. Furloughed employees in Wisconsin will have a one week waiting period before they will receive their first payment, so it’s important for those requiring benefits to pay bills or mortgages to file for benefits immediately. It will likely take even longer to process the claims and distribute the benefit checks.
If the UI Division distributes benefit checks and workers are later returned to their jobs with retroactive pay, the state may seek to recuperate the funds as overpayments. If workers return to work without back pay, they will be entitled to keep the unemployment benefits they collect during the shutdown.
The maximum weekly benefit in Wisconsin is currently $363 per week.
Watch Attorney McLeod in a PBS special about unemployment insurance here.