Press Releases

Representatives Trahan, Brown, and Stefanik Introduce the Bipartisan Fairness for Excepted Service Employees Act of 2019

This legislation is supported by: AFL-CIO, American Federation of Government Employees, and the National Treasury Employees Union

Washington, July 26, 2019

Washington, DC – Yesterday, Representatives Lori Trahan (D-MA), Anthony Brown (D-MD), and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) introduced the Bipartisan Fairness for Excepted Service Employees Act of 2019. This legislation would ensure that essential or “excepted” service employees would be eligible to receive unemployment compensation if there is a shutdown beginning on or after October 1, 2019. 


“The most basic function of Congress is to fund the government and to keep the lights on. Government shutdowns like the one we saw earlier this year are completely avoidable, and the result of toxic, partisan politics. While I am hopeful that we never allow a shutdown to happen again, I want employees to know that we have their backs. Therefore, to safeguard our federal employees from further financial harm, I am proud to introduce the Fairness for Excepted Service Employees Act to ensure that employees who are made to work without pay are eligible to receive unemployment compensation if there is another shutdown,” said Congresswoman Trahan. 

“The government should never shut down, but when politicians in Washington decide campaign priorities are more important than the men and women who make up our civil service, we have to do everything we can to ensure these federal employees can still put food on their families’ tables,” said Congressman Anthony G. Brown. “I was proud to introduce a bill earlier this year to extend unemployment benefits to furloughed federal employees, and I am grateful for the opportunity to join Congresswoman Lori Trahan in her effort to extend these protections.”

“Government shutdowns put significant financial stress on so many hardworking federal employees and their families,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “Throughout my time in Congress, I have been a consistent vote to keep the government open. My district is home to many federal workers who depend on Congress to do its job and ensure they have a stable paycheck, and I’m proud to introduce the bipartisan Fairness for Excepted Service Employees Act to provide those required to work through a shutdown with the same benefits as their colleagues that are furloughed, helping them pay the bills during this time of financial hardship.”


The FY 2019 shutdown lasted five weeks and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, cost the national economy billions of dollars.  It was also a tremendous hardship for the 800,000 federal employees who were furloughed or deemed essential (excepted service employees).  The shutdown was particularly challenging for the latter due to their ineligibility to receive unemployment compensation.  As the shutdown dragged on, federal employees’ personal savings was drained and reliance on credit cards grew.  


At least 400,000 of those federal employees, including workers at EPA, HUD, IRS, and U.S. Coast Guard were forced to work without pay. These employees – sometimes referred to as “excepted service” or “essential” – received no compensation for more than a month. Moreover, due to a longstanding interpretation of federal guidelines, these employees were also ineligible to receive unemployment compensation. Fairness for Excepted Service Employees Act of 2019 aims to prevent a repeat of this inequity.