ATLANTA — A bipartisan bill introduced in the Georgia Senate would extend unemployment benefits to federal workers forced to work during the government shutdown.

Senate Bill 27 would benefit Transportation Security Administration and other government employees deemed "essential" and required to work, even though the government isn't paying them, according to its sponsor Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Lithonia). 

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Furloughed workers who are off the job can already apply for unemployment benefits. They have to repay the government the benefits paid if the federal government subsequently awards them back pay from the shutdown period, as is typically the case. SB27 would also require repayment if back pay is awarded.

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The bill drew a rueful reception from some furloughed IRS workers, who say the absence of a paycheck has already complicated their finances.  The unemployment benefit could essentially become a loan, said Lakisha Murphy, a 12-year IRS worker.

"I don't want to take that and then have to pay it back," Murphy said, citing the paperwork hassle.

"If we're going to get paid anyway, we need to get paid now," she added. She was among two dozen government workers demonstrating alongside Chamblee-Tucker Road Thursday, calling for an end to the shutdown.

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Sen. Jones says he has also asked the office of Gov. Brian Kemp to consider issuing an executive order duplicating SB27, which he says would potentially provide benefits more quickly. 

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