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What you need to know about Unemployment (if you need it)

So… I’m hoping that none of you need to visit me at the office anytime soon – because that is not awesome.

However, it’s better to face the beast prepared – so here’s what Federal Employees may want to know about filing for unemployment.

BIG DISCLAIMER: Unemployment is a state program and it varies where you live. Most of it’s the same, but your state may be different. Ask your state for details

ANOTHER BIG DISCLAIMER: In the past, federal workers received backpay for the shut-down – making unemployment really unnecessary – in the event of a shut-down, check with your bosses on if you’ll need to file or not. If you collect and they pay you backpay, we’ll probably ask for the money back.

So – here we go

Federal wages are different – the federal government doesn’t report wages to states like most employers. Instead, the unemployment office has to request them from the federal government. Your employer should give you a form called an SF-8. This sheet of paper pretty much tells us what agency code you have and what the nature of your unemployment is. (If it’s for a shut-down, we’ll always consider this “Laid-off/lack of work” We’d also call it really really stupid on Congress’ part, but that’s a different blog.) The SF-8 is really useful because without it, I have to go though a book to try to find out what code your agency is.

Because we have to request wages from the feds, your wages won’t show up right away. You may get a scary letter that says your not eligible because you haven’t worked in the last 18 months. Most states have something in their letters to show that we’ve requested your wages. As long as we have your agency as your last employer, you should be all set. Once your wages arrive, you’ll get another letter that states what your weekly benefit amount is.

Once your claim is up, you’ll need to certify for benefits. We’ll tell you what day you need to do this. In Illinois, it”s every two weeks. In DC, it’s every week. Again, refer to your own state’s information packet for your details.

Now, some states (like mine) make your serve a waiting week – so if the shutdown is for less than a week, you may not receive anything. I’m NOT 100% sure if DC does.

Most states allow you to file online. DC’s website is http://www.does.dc.gov/ If you work outside of DC, file in the state in which you work. Some states make federal workers come into an office because we need the SF-8, in that case be sure to bring in a photo ID and your social security card with you as well. (Since we’re all suspicious of identity theft and and all)

I’ll try to answer any questions best I can, but hopefully it won’t come to that.

*Final disclaimer: I work for the Illinois Department of Employment Security, but this post is not backed by IDES. This is all just general and you should consult with your local office for exact info.

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Rebecca Schreiber

1. Tap any savings at the bank including CDs (you may give up some interest but they’re not paying much these days).

2. Withdraw contributions (only) from a Roth IRA.

3. Once you run out of savings, use a low-interest-rate credit card (such as 3 or 4%).

4. If you’re still running out, take a TSP loan.

5. Liquidate remaining IRAs

6. Rely on high-interest rate cards.

Following this approach will help you avoid interest, taxes and penalties for as long as possible. The steps above may help buy time to bring in new income or hold off until the direct deposits start rolling in again. When it’s all over, start paying off any debt by paying off the highest-interest-rate accounts first so the debt doesn’t follow you.

Teresa Alley

This is great information..and will be needed a lot of people in a few months as a number of government agencies go through serious downsizing to meet their FY12 budgets. I am one of the casualties on, or before, September 30.

Mark Boelte

Good information. This is also useful for any of us that work with the unemployed, especially our Veterans. As Veterans transition out they can apply for Unemployment, but their process is as you discribed here and can be a point of confusion to them. It’s nice to give them a heads up about potential delays so they are not suprised by them.

Christopher Whitaker

That’s because vets do have a different process – it’s simpler

All we need is thier DD 214 (copy 4) – and we’re good to go. Many agencies also have veterans representatives to provide extra assistance

Christopher Whitaker


I just got guidance for claimants in Illinois. If the shutdown happens and if you wish to file, please bring the following…

1) Photo ID

2) Social Security Card

3) 2010 W2

4) An SF-8 (if you have it)

You will not be able to file online, you’ll have to come into the office. If you live on Chicago’s North Side – then you’ll end up seeing me. Illinois does have a waiting week.

Christopher Whitaker

I would go to the unemployment office and ask for a supervisor (and let them know about your situation immediately.) There are ways to get it, but it’ll save a lot of time if you let them know right from the get go what’s going on.

Chris Tankalavage

If I recently left a non goverment job after 4 months due to contract ending and prior to that, for a 1 and 1/2 worked at SSA, how do I get a SF 8 form