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Furloughed feds who sought unemployment must repay cash

Thursday - 10/17/2013, 6:53pm  ET

WASHINGTON -- For some federal employees, it's payback time.

During the partial government shutdown, tens of thousands of furloughed employees in this area applied for unemployment benefits.

But those benefits came with a catch: If feds would receive back pay -- and they will -- unemployment benefits would have to be returned.

The day of recompense has arrived.

"We plan to notify the individuals that did access the money, as well as those that did not, that they need to pay this money back," says Lisa Maria Mallory, director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services. "We will reverse the payment in instances where it hasn't been accessed," she says.

About 1,700 furloughed workers have received benefits from the District. The transfers were made Tuesday via electronic payments to checking accounts or debit cards.

In all, 16,000 furloughed federal employees applied for unemployment insurance in the District. About 5,000 federal contractors did the same, although they do not have the same guarantee of back pay and may not have to return the money.

The District's Department of Employment Services is using emails, robocalls and traditional mail to notify recipients that they have to pay back the money.

Federal workers will have about 60 days to refund the benefits. Payment plans of up to six months are also available.

"If they have not done that or notified us of any kind of hardship and established a payment plan, we would then proceed to garnish their wages," Mallory says.

In the District, the highest individual payment was $359, the maximum weekly amount. The total benefits that went out Tuesday equaled about $500,000.

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