While Leon acknowledged that he did not "have any doubt that there is hardship being felt", he also said allowing employees deemed essential by the executive branch not to come to work would "at best create chaos and confusion" and at worst be "catastrophic".
Democratic Govs. Gavin Newsom of California, Tony Evers of Wisconsin and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico have promised furloughed workers that they will receive unemployment benefits during the shutdown, The Hill reports.
Some federal workers, who missed their first paycheck on Friday, have set up GoFundMe accounts and sold off belongings to make ends meet during the shutdown.
"The dysfunction at the federal level that has led to the shutdown has some real, significant impact for people at the state level", Scott Pattison, who heads the National Governors Association, told The Hill.
"The big issue we're seeing is federal workers who are required to work but aren't being paid can not receive these benefits", he said.
Leon acknowledged the hard position in which the shutdown has placed federal workers, who started missing paychecks last week, but said he could not grant the relief they were after.
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The figures, which are the latest available, suggest that the number of furloughed workers currently seeking unemployment benefits could be much higher now, as the protracted standoff stretches into its fourth week.
But not all federal workers qualify. The Labor Department will release data for the week ending January 12, the third week of the shutdown, next week.
How much help is unemployment? The union represents about 70,000 IRS workers, most of whom have been furloughed since nine of the federal government's 15 departments closed December 22.
But if they need to file for unemployment benefits again within the next five years, their new benefits will first go to reimburse OR for unemployment checks they receive during this shutdown.