Furloughs: Vacation or hard time?

Thursday - 3/7/2013, 2:00am EST

When and if sequestration-driven furloughs come, they could range from two to as many as 22 days if the impasse drags on and on. There is also the danger of a more serious governmentwide shutdown later this month, unless Congress approves spending authority for federal agencies or extends the current continuing resolution another month or two.

Some agencies say they can meet the new targets without resorting to furloughs. The Pentagon says the worst-case scenario would mean up to 22 days (at one day per week) for the duration. Many agencies are playing it straight. Others, one suspects, are putting their very worst foot forward to rattle the public into demanding action.

With a few exceptions, key players on both sides of the political divide seem to be spending more time trying to make sure the other party gets the blame for whatever inconvenience or disaster sequestration brings. By law, the President, key aides and members of the House and Senate cannot have their pay docked. But rank-and-file feds can.

Many people are taking this all in stride. They say they've seen worse (although it is hard to remember when or what it was) out of Washington. Some tell us they plan to use their furlough days to fully enjoy a three-day weekend. A couple have said that they hope their agencies will run any furlough days consecutively so they can have a week or two off.

But for the paycheck-to-paycheck feds, losing even one day of pay (20 percent for the week) is cutting it way to close. Landlords, mortgage holders, banks and credit-card companies may sympathize. But they will still expect payment on time.

There is at least one place that cash-strapped feds can go for a no-interest loan: The Federal Employees Education and Assistance fund. FEEA is funded by donations from federal and postal workers and retirees. And by some very generous corporate sponsors. It offers scholarships and emergency loans of up to $1,000. Applicants must apply after they've been furloughed and short-checked. They must be able to document that the money is needed for food, rent or a mortgage. FEEA will post details after the furloughs start.

Meantime, if you want to help out your fellow feds you can send donations to:

FEEA
3333.G. Wadsworth Blvd. Suite 300
Lakewood, CO 80227.

Or you can make online credit card donations by clicking here.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

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