State Lawmakers Approve Aid for Federal Workers During Shutdowns | WYPR

State Lawmakers Approve Aid for Federal Workers During Shutdowns

Feb 26, 2019

Howard County staff and volunteers pack bags full of groceries for furloughed federal workers on Jan. 25.
Credit Rachel Baye

During government shutdowns like the one that ended last month, federal employees who are considered “essential” and have to report to work without pay are not eligible for federal unemployment benefits. So Maryland lawmakers have devised a way to provide some help during the next shutdown.

Under a bill the state Senate approved Tuesday, federal employees who have to work without pay would be eligible for interest-free loans from the state. A similar bill passed the House earlier this month.

Legislators estimate that about 20,000 Maryland residents had to work without pay during the last shutdown. Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings said he was working with some members of the Coast Guard who were working without pay.

“We work in a facility where we have to go out for dinner every night. We can’t bring dinner in,” he told his chamber on Tuesday. “We started noticing some of these younger enlisted Coast Guard — guardsmen were, you know, they weren’t eating. Somebody asked them and the one woman was like, ‘I don’t have any money.’”

Sen. Andy Serafini, a Washington County Republican, was the only senator to vote against the bill. He said the state should be encouraging federal workers to build up their savings, but this bill enables them to be financially irresponsible.