Ripple effect of furloughs

Monday - 4/22/2013, 2:00am EDT

First, they said it couldn't happen.

Then, they said it shouldn't happen.

Next, the assurance was that it wasn't going to happen. Great, except...

It could, did, does and is happening. The "it" being sequestration. Automatic across-the-board cuts in many key programs — including your payroll dollars.

Now, "they" (the White House, which created sequestration, and the Congress, which approved it) must be looking for a new line. Because it's happening, though not in the numbers or with the impact many predicted. Some agencies have delayed the start of furloughs. Others, like Defense, have reduced the number of furlough days. But each day workers are furloughed will mean a 20 percent pay cut for that week. Inconvenient for some, devastating for others.

None of the politicians who cooked and swallowed this poison pill will lose any pay or be furloughed. Just so you know.

The federal court system jumped in first, scheduling double-digit furlough days for 20,000 workers through Oct. 1. The impact of the furloughs on the justice system has been the subject of much debate and radio-TV talk time, ranging from delayed trials for terrorists to justice denied for poor defendants.

Some Labor Department workers actually started their furloughs last week. The Office of Management and Budget issued notices in early March to 487 employees.

Some agencies are still working on furlough options. Others have bitten the bullet. The Internal Revenue Service has advised workers that furlough days will be May 24, June 14, July 5, July 22 and August 30, "with another two days possible in August or September. All public-facing operations will be closed on these dates, including our toll-free operations and Taxpayer Assistance Centers." IRS arranged the schedule so that employees would only have one furlough day per pay period, minimizing the salary loss.

In response to Friday's column, about the slow pace of furlough action, an FAA employee responded: "furloughs aren't just a summer movie. We at FAA start ours today. Monday is the first of 11 furlough days. Now it's for real."

Finally, this from an Enviromental Protection Agency employee who says she will celebrate Earth Day — which is today — very differently this year:

" Two things: ... As an EPA employee whose agency was not given spending flexibility like DOD, I must take 4 furlough days in the period starting next week through June 15. One date for these is agencywide (May 24), and the other 3 dates/times are our own choice. We know we will have up to 6 more furlough days we must take from July through Sept. 30.

"My first furlough day will be this coming Monday, April 22, EARTH DAY. I thought that was somehow fitting.

"2) I wanted to comment on the impact of furloughs and the overall budget situation on spending locally. I maintain these impacts are already happening. Let me describe what is happening in our own family to illustrate the point because I am sure we are not alone in cutting back our spending.

"Last fall we decided we could use a new car. Due to the budget uncertainty at the time (approaching fiscal cliff, prospective government shutdown, furloughs, no pay raise, you name it), I asked my husband to hold off until we got through the new year to see where things stood. Presuming, at the time, we'd be on firmer footing regarding my pay. No such luck.

"So although we are fortunate in that furloughs will not send us off our own fiscal cliff; things have been and will be extremely tight. We are still holding off on that car. That's one car sale in the D.C. area that ain't happening any time soon. And no nice vacation for us. Oh, poor fed, no 'vacation' — well let's look at it this way. One travel agent locally is not getting her commission. One tour company is not getting our booking. You get the point And, we've given up charitable contributions this year. We're used to supporting a number, including my university, local river keeper, pet rescue group, etc. They will not get anything from us. Enough said." — Down To Earth Day!


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

In the early days of television, the British Broadcasting Corporation did not broadcast between the hours of 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. It became known as the "toddlers' truce," so named to make it easier for parents to get their children to bed without the distraction of the TV. The practice ended in 1957.

(Source: Mental Floss)


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