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Shutdown Relief Bill Passes House of Delegates

Federal employees forced to work without pay during future government shutdown are one step closer to possible relief.

The Maryland House of Delegates voted 119-20 to pass House Bill 336, which would establish a Federal Government Shutdown Employee Assistance Loan Fund, to allow “essential” government employees to receive temporary assistance through the state during future shutdowns.

The fund could be activated by Maryland’s governor through a transfer of funds, subject to a two-day review period by legislators during any federal government shutdown. The fund could be used only for no-interest loans to federal employees with worksites in Maryland who are forced to go to work without pay due to a partial or full federal government shutdown.

The bill is an emergency bill, meaning it could become law immediately upon passage by both chambers and approval from Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R).

Initially proposed as an expansion of the state’s unemployment insurance benefits, the bill was amended to create a separate fund to avoid concerns that private employers would shoulder the costs for any benefits paid out to federal workers that were not paid back after the government reopened, the bill sponsor, Del. Jessica Feldmark (D-Howard) said.

It was the first bill sponsored by Feldmark, a freshman, to pass the chamber.

“I’m really grateful that so many of my colleagues agree this was unfair and needed to be addressed,” said Feldmark. “But, it’s legislation I hope we actually never have to utilize.”

She’d prefer that the federal government, employer of an estimated 245,000 Marylanders, just remains open. Lawmakers in D.C. are working to avoid the next possible partial government shutdown at midnight Friday.

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