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January 22, 2019 | Payroll Software | Posted by Bob Greene, Senior HR Industry Analyst at Ascentis

Shutdown Showdown? California Begins to Weigh In…

The partial federal government shutdown completed day 31 yesterday, the longest in U.S. history. Already, the government has accumulated “I.O.U.s” in back pay to 800,000 or so employees amounting to approximately $6.2 billion. Unless resolved by Tuesday night, January 22, biweekly paid federal employees will miss their second paycheck of 2019, due Friday, January 25.

With no formal negotiations scheduled and the two sides continuing to aggressively blame each other, the state of California has stepped into the fray in an interesting, and possibly groundbreaking, way. On January 11, 2019, California’s Employment Development Department (EDD, their state Labor Department) issued Press Release 18-105. Through this release, newly elected Governor Gavin Newsom reiterated that California will provide state unemployment benefits to federal workers deemed “essential” and forced to work without pay, in direct contravention to directions from the U.S. Department of Labor that unpaid essential federal workers are not considered “unemployed” (just unpaid) and therefore ineligible for state UI benefits. Addressing unpaid but on-the-job TSA workers at Sacramento Airport recently, Governor Newsom called those federal directions “jaw-dropping and extraordinary” to read.

California has the largest share of civilian federal workers, with 143,701 as of June, 2018. Second and third in that list are Virginia and Maryland, with 135,656 and 129,234 civilian federal employees, respectively. Alaska, despite having only 11,466 civilian federal employees, has the largest share of those workers per capita.

Following in California’s footsteps appears to be Connecticut, where a group of Democratic Senators and House Representatives have written U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, urging expeditious revision of the federal UI non-qualification guidelines to provide benefits to unpaid federal workers.

On the brighter side, the IRS recently recalled 36,000 furloughed workers to deal with the inundation of tax returns expected this season.  This brings the total number of at-work IRS employees to 46,000, or approximately 57% of the IRS workforce. This is expected to not only position the Service to open individual taxpayer 1040 filing season on time on January 28, 2019, but also to accept ALEM electronic filings of forms 1094-c and 1095-c through the AIR (ACA Information Returns) system, which has already begun.

Bob Greene currently serves as Senior HR Industry Analyst at Ascentis. Bob’s 40 years in the human capital management industry have been spent in practitioner, consultant and vendor/partner roles. As practitioner, he managed payroll for a 5,000-person bank in New Jersey. As consultant, he spent 8 years advising customers in HRMS, and payroll and benefits system design as well as acquisition strategies. Bob also built a strategic HCM advisory practice for Xcelicor (later acquired by Deloitte Consulting.)