Congressional Food Fight: Scraps For Feds

Tuesday - 9/27/2011, 2:01am EDT


If partisan differences force an extended governmentwide shutdown tens of thousands of federal workers could lose their homes, cars and be forced to apply for unemployment benefits and seek an estimated $16.5 million in emergency loans from a feds-help-feds charity.

Although everybody should have an emergency cash-fund set aside, the sad fact is that many people find it very helpful-to-essential that they get a regular paycheck. This is a point that is either lost on, or ignored by Congress which is rapidly becoming a millionaire's club with the best vacation package on earth.

Earlier this summer, 4,000 Federal Aviation Administration employees (and more than 65,000 private contractors) were furloughed for up to two-weeks. Unlike past furloughs the Congress has not authorized back pay for the no-fault furloughs that happened when Congress went on vacation without approving spending authority for FAA. The stage is now being set for a governmentwide shutdown because of a dispute between Senate Democrats and House Republicans over emergency funding for the Federal Emergency Management Administration. FEMA has been hard pressed this year because of a massive onslaught of tornadoes, a record-breaking drought in the southwest, earthquakes, tornadoes and massive flooding.

(If you are concerned that Congress is working itself to death, you can relax. The House and Senate have taken time outs in January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September and plan to take about 12 days off next month. Then comes December when the target adjournment date at least for the House is December 8th.)

During the two-week FAA furlough, 54 employees received $44,000 assistance from the Federal Employees Education and Assistance fund. Others went on and received unemployment benefits from their states. Although that is a small number by Washington standards, FEEA brass say that a furlough of 1.5 million feds would translate into at least 20,000 of them seeking upwards of $16.5 million in financial help from the group.

FEEA is funded by contributions from federal and postal workers and corporate sponsors. Employees who get loans or grant must provide proof that they need it for bills, rent, mortgage payments. It is not a payday loan program, or a give-away.

FEEA Executive Director Steve Bauer said that even without the FAA furloughs there have been "a record 84 federally declared natural disasters, ten of which have been billion dollar disasters...as a result our emergency assistance program for feds has been providing cash assistance ....at a record-breaking pace stretching our resources to the limit."

Here's a comment from an FAA employee. "Just a quick note to reinforce the impact of the potential furlough we feds face again after 9/30: I was among 4000+ FAA employees furloughed in early August for 2 weeks. We never did get back pay for this "vacation" we didn't want. (I was actually in the hospital for one week of this period.) If feds are furloughed again, it will have a very real impact on the FAA employees who have already suffered. " Been There, Done That

Update: For more on the Senate-House food fight, click here.

For Help: More more on what FEEA is doing, click here.


By Jack Moore

USPS — then known as the Post Office Department — introduced ZIP Codes in 1963 to make mail delivery more efficient. However, Slate reports the code "was initially met with resistance," because it was released around the same time as telephone area codes and people didn't want to be bothered to memorize more than one number. The Post Office's big solution? Mr. Zip, a friendly cartoon character who "enliven(ed) the dreary string of numbers" and reminded letter writers to include the ZIP code.


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