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October 8, 2013 at 10:01 AM
The state Employment Security Department furloughed 418 state employees on Tuesday and reduced hours for another 450 workers because of the federal government shutdown.
That represents about half of the 1,669 people employed by the agency. Employment Security, which gets 87 percent of its funding from the federal government, is using state dollars to pay the staff needed to process unemployment claims.
“We figure we can keep going with the state funds for a few weeks. If we go on for a month, we’ll have to reexamine that,” said Sheryl Hutchison, a spokeswoman for the agency.
Hutchison said the department furloughed managers, human resource staff and fraud investigators, among others. Congress is likely to authorize back pay for furloughed federal employees, but that appears unlikely to happen for state workers, she said.
“Under the state constitution there’s a limitation of the gifting of funds for work that was not performed,” Hutchison said. “So our ability to reimburse state employees retroactively is in question.”
On a more positive note, the Washington Military Department has called back most of the 850 workers it furloughed at the beginning of the month because of congressional action to pay civilian military employees.
The department has called back 764 military employees, all of whom will likely get back pay, said Karina Shagren, a spokeswoman for the agency. However, 80 state employees remain on furlough and, as is the case with employment security, it appears they won’t be eligible for back pay.
October 1, 2013 at 10:24 AM
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell on Tuesday furloughed the “overwhelming majority” of their staffs and closed their district offices in Washington state because of the federal government shutdown.
Murray’s spokesman Matt McAlvanah said the decision was based on “legal guidance our office has received” about which employees are deemed essential and exempt from furloughs.
At least four of the delegation’s Democratic House members, however, said they have retained all their staff members.
“All of our employees, in the district and D.C., are essential,” said Amber Macdonald, spokeswoman for Rep. Jim McDermott of Seattle.
Reps. Suzan DelBene of Medina, Adam Smith of Bellevue and Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor also said they have not furloughed any employees.
In event of a lapse in appropriations, lawmakers have latitude in deciding which of their employees are essential to carrying out their “constitutional responsibilities.” Those duties include drafting bills, preparing for hearings and conducting research.
Spokesmen for two Republicans, Reps. Doc Hastings of Pasco and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Camas, said they have furloughed “some” staff members, but declined to elaborate.
Murray’s six offices in Washington — in Seattle, Everett, Spokane, Tacoma, Yakima and Vancouver, will not respond to calls and emails from constituents for the duration of the shutdown. Same for Cantwell’s six district offices, one of which is in Richland instead of Yakima.
Kilmer, on the other hand, announced Tuesday he would extend district office hours in Bremerton and Tacoma to assist constituents affected by the shutdown. Kilmer’s Sixth District includes Naval Base Kitsap Bangor, and the federal government is the district’s largest employer.
February 26, 2013 at 6:05 PM
WASHINGTON — With millions of federal workers facing possible unpaid furloughs from mandatory budget cuts slated to start Friday, Sen. Patty Murray took to the Senate floor Tuesday to point out the culprits: Republicans.
The Washington Democrat spoke out against the $85 billion in spending cuts while standing next to a chart labeled “Republican Plan for Sequestration.” A red WARN NOTICE was stamped on it.
That was a reference to a 30-day notice of furloughs that are expected to go out starting March 1 at most government agencies, from the Pentagon to the Bureau of Prisons to the Food and Drug Administration. The Federal Aviation Administration, for instance, has announced that in order to cut $483 million from its operating budget, all of its 40,000 workers will have to take 11 unpaid days off this year.
Murray contends Republicans’ refusal to accept any new taxes in order to offset the spending cuts is directly to blame for the coming furloughs. Republicans counter that they’ve already agreed to raise income taxes on families earning more than $450,000 a year and won’t agree to more.
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