When you think of states with a large federal population, Oklahoma, with 3.8 million men, women and children, usually doesn’t pop up on the radar screen. But it should still register, even though it only has about 80,000 federal workers. (About the same number as are stuck in traffic any given day in the D.C. area. Or so it seems!)
Two out of every three Oklahoma feds work for the Defense Department. At one point, the American Federation of Government Employees was the largest union in the state. DoD aside, Oklahoma also has a large federal presence in operations run by the U.S. Postal Service, FAA and the National Weather Service. Specializing in really bad weather.
Oklahoma has been in the news in a big and bad way because of the tornadoes that ripped through the heart of the state this week. The mile-wide, 200-mph. monster tore through Oklahoma near Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City to the south, and just north of Norman which is headquarters for a major postal center.
The federal building in Oklahoma City was the target for home-grown terrorists who, in April 1995, blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building which housed a score of federal agencies. And a day care center for the kids of feds working there.
Shortly after the bombing, FEEA (the Federal Employee Education and Assistance fund) pledged college scholarships — a free ride to any school they could get into — to the 200 children who lost a parent or parents in the explosion. One was born a few months after the attack. Ten of those children are still in college. The others graduated.
FEEA, which is funded by rank-and-file federal workers and some very generous corporate sponsors (Blue Cross, GEICO, and Long Term Care Partners) also pledged full scholarships to children whose parents were killed in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. Executive Director Steve Bauer said FEEA is halfway through that program with only 12 children remaining to enter college.
Before the tornadoes, FEEA was gearing up to get funds to provide no-interest loans to feds who have been, or will be furloughed. Many can handle it, but for some losing one day of pay (a 20 percent pay cut for that week) is a financial disaster.
This month, FEEA — with the help of GEICO, BC-BS and LTCP sponsors — is having a matching-fund drive. For every $100 donated by an individual the sponsors will match it with a $400 donation to FEEA.
Today at 10 a.m., Steve Bauer will be our guest on our “Your Turn” radio show. He’ll talk about the scholarship and loan programs, what it was like after the bombing and what FEEA will be doing to help furloughed feds everywhere and tornado victims in Oklahoma.
Later in the show Federal Times senior writer Stephen Losey will look at the Defense furlough plan, the TSP’s L funds and OPM’s retirement backlog.
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.a
And remember: For many folks on the East and West Coasts, Oklahoma seems remote and far away. (By the same token San Francisco and Washington, D.C., to many Oklahomans seem like Disneyland East and West.) But when things get tough, like now, we are all in (and from) the same state.
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