Washington Gov. Jay Inslee looks on as Suzi LeVine, the state’s Employment Security Department Commissioner, talks to reporters Thursday at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee looks on as Suzi LeVine, the state’s Employment Security Department Commissioner, talks to reporters Thursday at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

State ready to help federal employees working without pay

Workers, including 452 from Snohomish County, can apply for retroactive state unemployment benefits.

OLYMPIA — The state will offer financial help to thousands of federal employees required to work without pay during the partial federal government shutdown, the governor said Thursday.

Those workers, including FBI agents, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, food safety inspectors, Transportation Security Administration workers and U.S. Coast Guard personnel, can now apply for unemployment benefits dating back to the start of the shutdown in December.

“It is not a permanent or total solution for these families,” Gov. Jay Inslee said at a news conference Thursday. “The federal government has sadly failed these workers … and put them in extreme financial risk.”

An estimated 16,000 federal employees in this state — including 452 in Snohomish County — are directly affected by the partial shuttering of government agencies.

About half are deemed essential and have been required to continue doing their jobs without pay. These individuals are the ones who will now be able to apply for assistance through the state Employment Security Department.

There are another estimated 8,000 furloughed workers who have already been eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits. Roughly 2,100 of them have filed claims, according to Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine.

The amount of assistance is based on someone’s salary. The maximum state benefit is $749 a week, LeVine said. Money for benefits will come out of the unemployment compensation trust fund and not the general fund, which is used to cover the day-to-day costs of state government.

Workers who file a claim can expect to get their first check in 10 to 14 days, she said. And they are required to pay back any state benefits they receive once the shutdown ends and they get their back pay, LeVine said.

“They understand that expectation,” she said.

Washington is joining the likes of California, Colorado, New Mexico and Vermont in offering essential workers help, Inslee said.

Federal workers can get more information on the department website, www.esd.wa.gov. In addition, the Office of the Governor has compiled a list of resources for affected workers. It can be found at www.governor.wa.gov.

The plight of federal workers isn’t the only concern created by the shutdown, which began Dec. 22.

A report by Inslee’s office Thursday forecast potential disruption to recipients of food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and financial aid through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, if the shutdown carries on several weeks.

Ferry service could be affected too. To sail, each vessel is required to be inspected annually by the Coast Guard. Furloughs have left the agency with fewer staff.

Alaska Airlines announced this week it is delaying the start of commercial passenger service at Paine Field by at least three weeks because of the ongoing closure.

The Coast Guard canceled its scheduled inspection of the Chimacum earlier this week, according to the report. The ferry continues to operate because its certificate of inspection does not expire until March. Four other ferries are due for inspection later this month and early February, according to the report.

And there’s fallout from the halting of pesticide monitoring by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to the governor’s office, it’s meant the state Department of Agriculture has had to shelve plans to test about 1,400 samples for about 220 pesticides as part of the federal Pesticide Data Program.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield @herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos

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