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Payback Time: States Want Refunds From Furloughed Federal Workers

Washington and Idaho want recently furloughed federal workers to repay unemployment benefits. But a quirk in Oregon law means affected workers there will get to keep whatever they received.

The 16-day partial government shutdown lasted long enough for some furloughed federal workers to collect one week of unemployment benefits. But when Congress made the deal to end the shutdown, it included back pay for the furloughed workers.

Washington Employment Security Department spokesman Bill Tarrow says his agency is now seeking refunds from nearly a 1,000 people.

"We are attempting to work with the federal agencies that have been affected to simply see if they can withhold the money that will be paid to their employees and then pay that money back to our agency. Or probably more likely, what we'll have to do is work on a case by case basis with each of those claimants to recapture the money."

Just shy of 500 federal workers in Idaho will be getting letters this week seeking payback according to the Idaho Dept. of Labor.

It's different in Oregon. The Oregon Employment Department says a state law aimed at private-sector labor disputes has an unintended effect. About 1,300 furloughed federal workers in Oregon get to pocket an average of about $450 in unemployment compensation for putting up with the shutdown, even though they are slated to receive back pay.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.