Furloughs cut in half, but employees still feel pinch
The financial impact of furloughs will be less than expected at Defense Supply Center Columbus.
The U.S. Department of Defense on May 14 announced that employees at the federal base in Whitehall would be furloughed for 11 days instead of the expected 22.
The approximately 9,000 civilian employees at DSCC were prepared for 22 days of furloughs, which were imposed as part of a federal budget-cutting plan called sequestration that went into effect March 1 after a divided Congress was unable to reach an agreement on federal spending by Jan. 1.
The furloughs affect about 9,000 employees at the DSCC, about 6,000 of which are part of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and 3,000 of which are part of the Defense Logistics Agency.
Twenty-two different organizations are within the two largest departments at DSCC, said John Forman, deputy public-affairs officer for the Defense Logistics Agency Land and Marine.
"Each one could handle the furlough differently," depending on what is most optimal for that individual organization, Forman said.
The DOD will send furlough notices May 28 through June 5, and affected employees will have a seven-day period to respond to the notice before final furlough notices are sent, Forman said. Furloughs are schedule to begin July 8.
By law, employees must be informed at least 30 days prior to scheduled furloughs, Forman said.
Speaking specifically about the impact of furloughs upon the Defense Logistics Agency, Forman said the furloughs would be scheduled in such a way to avoid adversely affecting those they serve.
DLA Land and Marine, as it is known at DSCC, supplies parts for military vehicles and ships.
Each DLA Land and Marine employee will be furloughed one day a week, beginning July 8 and continuing through September.
"About half of our workforce will be off each day," Forman said, but the department will "maintain its support."
Andy Utz, treasurer of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1148, one of the unions representing employees at DSCC, said although the furloughs are less than expected, the impact still will be devastating to many employees.
"We're still disappointed," Utz said. "It is 11 days and that is a 20-percent pay cut for these employees for 11 weeks. That is a lot of money to many of our employees and their families."
Utz said the union members were very disappointed that the furloughs did not extend to the contractors that work at DSCC.
"It's a morale killer for us," Utz said, referring to the furloughed employees who will work alongside contractors who aren't directly affected by the sequestration.
The contractors also should have been subjected to furloughs, Utz said.
Among those who will be furloughed are 53-year-old Garry Lister, a 31-year employee at DLA Land and Marine.
Lister and his wife have four children. Three are at college and one lives at home in Pickerington.
After learning he was furloughed, Lister said, he re-financed their residence to lower the monthly mortgage and borrowed against a government-sponsored savings plan.
"I planned to retire in a few years but will likely work a few more now," Lister said.
Lister said he was more frustrated with government spending than with the furlough.
"If we all need to tighten our belt, even if it's a furlough, I can take a few days off to help the economy," he said, adding that he is most angered by continued government support of entitlement programs.
"It's wasteful spending. ... Do you really need a cellphone?" he said, referring to government programs that provide financial assistance for cellular telephones.
"I am offended that they furloughed me while at the same time giving away to entitlements and protecting tax loopholes for the filthy rich" Lister said.
Reynoldsburg-area resident Pat Hampton, 52, is an inventory specialist for DLA Land and Marine.
"My spending habits will have to change. I'm not keeping up with cost-of-living expenses as it is," said Hampton, who expects her credit score to be affected. "It will be tough to make ends meet. ... Something won't get paid."
Hampton said Congress "should take a step in (our) shoes."
"They don't lose anything, but (they'll) allow us to take the fall," she said.
The city of Whitehall will lose more than a half-million dollars in withholding-tax revenues as a result of the furloughs.
"We're pleased the furlough days were cut in half," Whitehall auditor Dan Miller said. "It puts us in better shape, but it's still a lot of money to lose."
Miller had estimated a loss of about $1.2 million, but with the reduction of furlough days to 11 among the 9,000 employees at the base, Whitehall will lose about $550,000 in withholding-tax revenues between July 8 and the end of September.
"We're already making adjustments," he said, adding that the city should be able to adjust for the losses without using its cash reserve.
"The residents will not notice anything different," he said.
The employees might be affected marginally as the city likely will postpone the purchase of some new materials and equipment to balance the current operating budget, Miller said.
The city receives 65 percent of its income-tax withholding from DSCC.
Jackiethia Butsch, executive director of the Whitehall Area Chamber of Commerce, said the furloughs would have an adverse effect on area businesses.
"(DSCC) drives a lot of business here, especially the restaurants," Butsch said.