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WorkForce prepares for unemployment requests

Federal workers furloughed from the government shutdown shouldn't rush out just yet to apply for unemployment benefits.

In fact, one West Virginia agency tells employees to wait until next week before filing their claims.

WorkForce West Virginia already has received a "substantial amount of phone calls" from people wanting to file for unemployment, said Beth Carenbauer, acting director of unemployment compensation for WorkForce West Virginia.

For the first two days, WorkForce has received about 30 claims from federal employees, Carenbauer said.

Activity in other mid-Atlantic states, where many federal workers are located, has been even more frenzied.

Governing's FedWatch blog reported that between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. on the first day of the shutdown, Maryland's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation received roughly 4,000 applications, according to Maureen O'Connor, an agency spokeswoman.

In West Virginia, the heavy traffic is expected next week.

To prepare, Carenbauer said WorkForce has increased staff and also is bringing in staff from other divisions to help process claims.

Monday night's shutdown has resulted in furloughs of more than 800,000 federal employees nationally.

WorkForce estimates there are 23,000 federal employees in West Virginia, but many may be deemed essential, Carenbauer said. 

If employees are subject to layoffs, however, there is a one-week waiting period to file for benefits "due to the uncertainty of the extent of the shutdown," the WorkForce website states.

Carenbauer said if people are not back to work on Monday or Tuesday, they should file a claim.

WorkForce also posted a notice on its website informing furloughed employees about the unemployment process. According to the notice, WorkForce will backdate claims up to 21 days after the layoff. If an employee is paid for time he or she didn't work and also received unemployment, payments will be considered backpay. 

Carenbauer said the largest concentration of federal employees is in the Eastern Panhandle, followed closely by the Morgantown/Clarksburg area.

For federal employees living in West Virginia but working in another state, Carenbauer said they should file for unemployment benefits in the state of their employment.

"People have to file in the state they received wages; it's not dictated by where you live," Carenbauer said. 

Carenbauer said when people file for benefits, they should bring proof of wages, screen prints of the federal website, 2012 W-2 tax forms and a completed copy of the initial claim application from WorkForce's website.

"In this time of great uncertainty, we want to make sure they get the benefits they are entitled," Carenbauer said.

As Congress continues to meet, state agencies are working to find solutions and see where they stand. The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, which administers federal monies and services, thinks it can operate through the end of the week.

"The ever-changing environment of the federal government will continue to determine the impact of DHHR programs," DHHR Cabinet Secretary Karen Bowling said. "If the federal shutdown continues beyond this week, we will perform a day-by-day analysis."

Contact writer Andrea Lannom at Andrea.Lannom@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her at www.twitter.com/AndreaLannom.


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