Governor Baker Preps Proposal To Help Federal Workers

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BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker is preparing to present lawmakers with ideas about how Massachusetts could help federal workers furloughed or working without pay because of the partial federal government shutdown.

The Republican said Thursday his administration is looking for ways that the state's unemployment insurance system could be tapped to help the workers. He said many are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage or meet other daily costs of living.

"What we've been working on most of is trying to figure out how to make the unemployment insurance system support these folks," Baker told reporters. "Our goal is to have some thoughts about how to do that that we could talk to the Legislature about next week."

There are about 47,000 federal employees living in Massachusetts.

Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Thursday the Legislature is also looking for ways to help federal workers in Massachusetts.

"One of the concerns that I have is as this extends for a longer and longer period of time there are going to be a number of people there that obviously are not going to be in a good position in term of paying bills because of the fact they're getting no income," DeLeo said.

Also Thursday, Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka announced a bipartisan eight-member Senate working group to develop ways to help federal workers.

Spilka said the working group will look at how to assist families and individuals meet their basic needs, including groceries, housing and childcare. The working group will also evaluate proposals designed to extend unemployment insurance, as well as attempt to assess coming challenges to the state if the shutdown continues.

"Creating this bipartisan working group will allow us to effectively strategize ways to protect and care for individuals and families affected by the government shutdown, while also preparing for the long-term implications for our economy," Spilka said in a statement.

She said of the federal workers in Massachusetts, about 8,000 have been out of work since the government shutdown began on Dec. 22.

The shutdown is now in its 34th day and is the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

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