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Government shutdown leads to spike in requests for unemployment benefits in Utah

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Posted at 5:04 PM, Oct 10, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-10 19:04:35-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's Department of Workforce Services is seeing a huge spike in the number of workers asking for unemployment benefits as a result of the federal government shutdown.

It's been a busy time for Utah's unemployment office as they try to help those furloughed workers, and the claims have tripled over the past ten days.

“You have people that want to work, they want to be productive, but they are in a situation where they need a little bit of help until the federal government is able to figure this situation out,” said Nic Dunn of the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

The federal government shutdown has sent thousands of Utahns into a forced, unpaid vacation. Utah's Department of Workforce Services reported a steep jump in the number of people filing for unemployment insurance.

Since the shutdown began on October 1, they've received about 8,000 claims, which is more than three times the average.

“Of that number, about two-thirds are federal employees who have been furloughed trying to get some unemployment benefits,” Dunn said.

If a federal employee was furloughed last Tuesday, the first day of the shutdown, Dunn said the earliest they can receive an unemployment check is October 15.

“Because there’s a one week waiting period after you’re initially furloughed, and then that second week is the first you are eligible for benefits, so you get it after that first week is over,” he said.

The workers considered essential who have had to stay on the job without pay are not eligible. If Congress approves retroactive wages, those who received unemployment will be expected to pay it back, but Dunn said the department will work with them.

Those who are interested in applying for unemployment insurance can click here.