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Thousands of federal workers furloughed by the government shutdown have filed for Utah unemployment insurance, causing the jobless claims to spike to three-and-a-half times their normal rate, according to the state Department of Workforce Services.

Between Oct. 1-7, 6,959 claims were filed, said spokesman Nic Dunn. Of those, 4,606 were federal employees — accounting for two-thirds of the total.

If Congress approves back pay for the those furloughed workers, they will be required to repay the jobless benefits, which generally amount to less than one-half of a worker's salary. If such repayment is a hardship, Dunn said, "we can work with people about a payment plan."

Federal workers who are required to remain on the job without pay, though, are out of luck in terms of receiving unemployment checks.

"Unfortunately," said Dunn, "they're not eligible."

A one-week waiting period means the earliest checks could arrive in workers' mailboxes on Oct. 15 or 16, he said. Because of the heavy volume of claims, Dunn suggests people file through the department website at to avoid a wait of 20-40 minutes on the phone.

Utah's unemployment insurance fund is up to handling the surge in claims.

"If the shutdown is fairly short term, our unemployment fund here in Utah will be OK," said Dunn.

Dan Harrie

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