Furlough reality begins to bite feds

Friday - 6/14/2013, 2:00am EDT

Although people in the Washington area are noted for being articulate, many revert to a sort of hand jive — often using only the middle finger — to greet fellow drivers on our usually clogged highways.

But if traffic is a little light today, don't credit it entirely to the weather or people on AWS rotation. In many places, you can chalk it up to the presence of the F-word, which is becoming part of the deal if you work for Uncle Sam.

Whether you commute into or from Ogden or Provo, Utah, greater Cincinnati, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, New York, Philadelphia or metro D.C. itself, lots of federal workers are taking today off. Without pay. And not because they want to!

It's the F-word. Furlough.

The largest group of furloughed feds today is probably in the Internal Revenue Service. IRS, EPA and a few others were furlough pioneers. While Defense held out as long as possible, the IRS and others decided to bite the bullet and get it over with.

Each furlough day represents a 20 percent pay cut for that week. Many people can handle it. Many can't or won't be able to. The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund, a feds-helping-feds-charity reports it is swamped with requests for no-interest loans from employees trying to make the rent or put food on the table.

So now that it's here, how are people getting by? Check out these emails from workers for whom furloughs are reality, not talk:

  • "I don't know how much more federal workers can take. I received my pay check after the first furlough day and, by gosh, I could have used the missing monies for groceries. Oh wait, I can't even afford to buy groceries. Why again has our pay been frozen? Everything is going up in price while we are losing ground in pay. This could cause someone real harm. Living paycheck to paycheck is not cool (like my husband and I do). I wish the public folks could know life is not grand being a federal worker. We do not make millions of dollars like everyone thinks that we do. Can someone put the truth out there? Thanks for letting me vent. — Diana who works for the IRS.

  • "Hello again from the deep wells of FURLOUGH LAND on this fine Furlough Wednesday, for me. I work a 5/4/9 schedule, with every other Thursday as my AWS day. By the way, my TOD is Sunday through Thursday, so this week my AWS day falls on the Thursday — making today (Wednesday) my furlough day of eight hours plus one hour of leave to round out my nine hours today. When my paycheck for the last pay period was posted Monday, I found that I had lost over $250 net pay. Now that may not seem like much, but multiply that times a proposed seven furlough days and it's getting close to a 10 percent pay cut for me. That $250 goes for my food bill and other small bills that WILL NOT get paid this time. This pay period we are working on is the same, but the next one will be a full pay check ... WHOOPEE! Sorry if I sound a bit callous, that's because I am.

    "They have also taken away our AWARDS that we work hard on our evaluations each year to achieve. That was bad enough, but this next award takes it to another level.

    "In the past, a manager could grant an employee 59 minutes to leave early or come in late, whichever that employee decides to do. Well, Mike, in the infinite wisdom of the IRS, they have stopped the managers from granting that 59 minutes. Why? Because they view it as an AWARD, even though it is vanilla and not entered as an AWARD on that employee's time sheet. They still are calling this very simple 59 minutes an AWARD. Please tell me how that will help balance the budget and bring down the NATIONAL DEBT?

    "Federal employees have taken enough abuse these past three years, but I suppose the folks who decide these things have decided we haven't had enough abuse yet. In my almost 30 years of working here I have sacrificed Christmas, New Year's and other holidays because I had to work those holidays and others, too. I have traveled to classes on the worse day of flight in AMERICAN HISTORY, 9/11. I have always believed that when you do a good job and work times for little or no pay to help that employer meet a deadline, that employer would turn around and help the employee through the slow or rough times. That is no longer true, so morale will drop, the good employee who over time becomes the great and extremely knowledgeable employee, no longer will stay, they will look for a better paying and better employer in the private sector and 10 or 20 years from now the seeds planted today will bear the ill fruit of tomorrow..." — Craig


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID