Raleigh, N.C. — The partial federal shutdown is keeping the phones busy at the North Carolina Division of Employment Security, the department that manages jobless claims.
Assistant Commerce Secretary Dale Folwell said Wednesday that his division usually processes about 100 jobless claims by federal workers per month. On Tuesday alone, he said, the division had 300 calls.
Folwell estimates there are about 60,000 federal employees in North Carolina. That number doesn't include the thousands of state workers paid with federal funds who could also find themselves idled by the stalemate on Capitol Hill.
DES has a special queue set up to help connect federal workers seeking help with experienced staff, but Folwell said it won't be a quick process.
"There’s nobody at the federal government to confirm the wages" for workers who file claims, he said. "So, all these have to be touched individually. We have to rely on what the employee tells us their wages were. If we determine that we’ve overpaid them, then they’ll have to pay us back."
Furloughed workers will be subject to the same requirements as other jobless claimants – they'll have to wait a week for benefits and actively search for work.
Those who do receive unemployment checks may end up having to return them, Folwell cautioned.
"Once the shutdown is over, if they’re paid retroactively back to Oct. 1," he said, "they’re going to owe us that money back."