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More than 2,500 federal workers in Ohio file for unemployment

More than 2,500 furloughed federal employees in Ohio filed for unemployment compensation by midday Thursday, and that number is expected to rise, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Civilian workers who were sent home on unpaid furloughs because of the government shutdown Oct. 1, including 8,700 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, can file for unemployment compensation through the state, said Benjamin Johnson, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

“Our advice to all Ohioans is to go ahead and file a claim,” he said.

The department will review the claim to determine eligibility, he said.

“The fact that someone is furloughed does qualify them for unemployment compensation as opposed to someone who was fired for cause,” Johnson said. “The situation is somewhat unique because the claimant doesn’t know and we don’t know how soon the furlough would end.”

Claims for less than a week may not necessarily receive a benefit, he said.

The Food Bank of Dayton, meanwhile, has scheduled a mobile food pantry distribution between 10 -11 a.m. Tuesday outside Gate 1B on Springfield Street in the parking lot across the street from the gate, according to base spokesman Daryl Mayer. The distribution is open to the community.

An unemployment compensation claim pays up to a maximum of half an individual worker’s pay with a cap depending on how many dependents the wage earner supports, Johnson said.

The current maximum for someone with no dependents is a $413 weekly payment; a person with one to two dependents receives $501; and three or more $557, he said.

The average weekly payment is $313, he said.

Johnson said the federal government reimburses the state for every dollar paid to an unemployed federal worker. “So there is no long term impact to Ohio’s unemployment trust fund,” he said.

However, if Congress were to pass a law to retroactively pay furloughed workers for the days they were off work, the employees would have to repay the unemployment compensation benefit, Johnson said.

“We can work with them on a payment plan and can certainly be flexible,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, co-introduced a bill, called the “Support Our Armed Forces Act,” to put civilian Department of Defense workers back to work, his office said late Thursday afternoon. Turner also has sent letters to President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel calling on them to return civilian employees to work under the earlier approved “Pay Our Military Act.”

Col. Cassie B. Barlow, 88th Air Base Wing commander at Wright-Patterson, said “the biggest concern” she has heard from civilian employees who remain on the job has been about receiving a paycheck Oct. 15, the next pay day.

Wright-Patterson kept about 3,200 civil service workers on the job because their duties related to safety, property protection or other functions deemed critical. The Department of Defense has said those employees would be paid once Congress passes a spending bill. Military personnel will continue to be paid. “If the employees are working now for pay later they are not eligible” for unemployment compensation, Johnson said.

Department of Defense civil service workers who were furloughed for six days, typically over one day a week, under automatic budget cuts this summer could not file for unemployment compensation because they kept working and earning wages the majority of the time, he said.

To file an unemployment compensation claim, log onto unemployment.ohio.gov or call 877-644-6562.

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