As Alaska nears what could be the first ever state government shut down on July 1, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development is encouraging people who’ve already received pink slips to file for unemployment now if they’re going to, while the office is still able to process applications.


“Who the hell is gonna process the checks when we’re all laid off?” Sandra Fletcher said as state workers rallied Sunday afternoon.


The answer is still unclear.


A spokesperson for the Department says the Governor’s office and the Department of Law are looking into whether the federally funded unemployment insurance services can continue in the event of a government shutdown.


“There’s two different constitutional mandates,” said Paloma Harbour, the Administrative services division director. “One is we have to have an approved budget to spend money and then the other one is we have to provide Alaskans with safety and health, and economic stability isn’t specifically mentioned, but, that’s certainly something they’re taking into account.”


Harbour and more than 800 employees within the department have received layoff notices that would go into effect on July 1 if lawmakers don’t pass a budget.


The number of Alaskans who collected unemployment payments in 2015 was 42,138, and grew to 43,017 in 2016, according to Harbour.


She says job centers that had 194,213 visits in 2016 are also at risk of going dark.


In a press release sent out last week, the department urges, “State employees facing layoff are encouraged to engage in the Unemployment Insurance (UI) process early. State employees may apply for UI at https://my.alaska.gov. The processing and payment of UI claims may be delayed.”


Harbour says they haven’t seen an uptick in applications yet. She believes that’s because the special session ends Friday and people could be waiting to see if lawmakers pass a budget before then.


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