A House committee explored Monday a bill allowing federal and state government employees required to work without pay during a furlough to draw upon Kansas unemployment insurance benefits.
David Schemm, executive director of the Kansas Farm Service Agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said a portion of FSA staff worked without compensation during the partial government shutdown Dec. 22 to Jan. 25.
He said the organization hired 60 new employees in the past year, and many were young adults without hefty savings of more veteran staff who could work their way through missed paychecks. About 120 of the agency's employees were called back to work in January, but they weren't eligible to be paid.
“And these are people, that unlike some of their counterparts that have worked within our agency, that hired onto our agency in the ‘80s and ‘90s, do not have those balance sheets that some of the older employees do, and thus are more dependent upon that paycheck coming on a biweekly basis,” Schemm said.
Under House Bill 2154, Kansas jobless benefits would be extended to government workers required to report to their jobs during a shutdown but not able to receive a timely paycheck.
Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin, said the legislation wouldn't cover employees of a city, county or school district compelled to work without compensation during a furlough driven by lack of operating funds.
"All government employees would not be covered under the provisions of this," Jennings said.
If beneficiaries accepted unemployment payments in Kansas, under current state law they would be required to reimburse the state if paid back wages by the state or federal government.
The bill before the House Rural Revitalization Committee would be limited to the fiscal years 2019 and 2020. The committee didn't take action on the legislation.