The mood was somber at Employment Security Department offices across the state on Tuesday, as hundreds of workers found themselves in the position of those they usually help: Out of work.
Although employees of the state, 900 workers have been furloughed or lost hours because their pay comes from federal government sources. They will remain without pay until the impasse in Washington, D.C., ends.
At first, the state found stopgap money to keep the employees working. But now the department says it must conserve funds to department's most essential function: processing checks for the state’s unemployed.
As workers prepared to leave work on Tuesday, Spokeswoman Sheryl Hutchison said they had one task left before leaving, one that might be all-too familiar: "We’ve asked all of our staff who are affected to start filling out their unemployment applications today," Hutchison said. "To have to furlough people because of a federal shutdown, this is the first time that has ever happened."
The furlough disappointed workers who did not want the work of the department interrupted. Stacy Klein, who manages Internet communications for employment security, said people in the department just want to help the unemployed return to work. Some worked on special programs for veterans, although funding for those programs also disappeared last week.
"It’s frustrating. We know that after all the fighting is over in Congress and the funding returns, it’ll take even more effort to get that momentum going again," Klein said.
Those on furlough will go unpaid for a week before they qualify for unemployment benefits. It’s not known when the shutdown could lift or when funding would be restored.