For financially-comfortable feds, the threat of furloughs may be irritating, like a bad morning in traffic. Some are more irritated that politicians — after freezing federal pay for three years — continue to use them as a political football. Democrats want tax increases; Republicans want to cut entitlements.
Many veterans of the civil service have been through similar exercises since the 1970s. And there was that government shutdown in the winter of ’95-’96, which started off as a disaster but turned into a surprise paid winter vacation for all concerned. Except many contractors.
But for low-income workers and hard-pressed single parents living paycheck-to-paycheck, the possibility of a 20 percent pay cut is no laughing matter.
It is true that the furlough threat, as predicted, is weakening. Agencies that talked the toughest about being first with the most furloughs have now found ways — or wisdom — to minimize, delay or flat out eliminate them. That’s great. A new twist on business in Washington. With a twist …
It is still possible, in fact highly likely, that some people will still be furloughed, unless Congress and the White House do a deal. Probably for less time than originally announced. But furloughed nevertheless. So what do they do when their income drops 20 percent, even for a week?
It’s a little late to remind people what the pros advise: We should all have six months to a year of ready cash to pay bills, mortgages and for things like transportation and eating.
Because the furloughs when/if they come will be one-day-per-pay-period, — maybe one-day-per-week — most people can’t count on qualifying for unemployment benefits.
One place many are likely to turn to is FEEA. That’s the feds-helping-fed charity officially known as the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund. FEEA has helped federal and postal workers for decades. It offered free-ride scholarships to the children of workers killed in the Oklahoma City bombing. Some of those kids — including one who was born after the parent was killed — are still in college. FEEA also helped after Hurricane Katrina. After a major hurricane hit south central Florida, executive director Steve Bauer flew there — with a suitcase full of cash — and with the help of the military, Postal Service and Social Security Administration, delivered cash to families who had lost everything. FEEA was also there for children whose parents were killed in the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon.
Today at 10 a.m., Bauer will be the lead-off guest on our Your Turn radio show. He’ll talk about what FEEA does and how it’s prepared to help furloughed feds.
Then, at 10:30 a.m. Sean Reilly from the Federal Times will talk about the evolution of agency furlough plans, the saga of postal downsizing and the push to eliminate Saturday delivery for first-class mail.
Listen if you can (1500 AM or online), and if you have questions email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call in during the show at (202) 465-3080. The show will be archived here.
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