CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Workers at Letterkenny Army Depot will see a 22-day work furlough that was expected to begin this week as part of the federal budget sequester reduced by eight days, according to a depot spokeswoman.
The United States Department of Defense has reduced the number of furlough days to 14, Letterkenny spokeswoman Lindsay Bryant said.
The furlough was expected to begin in April and continue through September, Bryant said. Now, the furlough is slated to begin in mid- to late June, she said.
Furlough notices are expected to go out in early May, Bryant said.
“Employees are still going to have a four-day work week over the course of 14 weeks rather than the 22 weeks,” she said.
Letterkenny’s 4,000 workers will lose one day of work per week or 20 percent of their pay as a result of sequestration.
The reduction of the furlough from 22 days to 14 days is good news for the region, said L. Michael Ross, president of Franklin County Area Development Corp.
“It’s clearly better news than where we started, but it’s not what we were hoping for,” Ross said. “What we wanted was that nobody would be furloughed at all. We think that’s a solution that Congress and the administration should be working toward.”
Letterkenny’s union president said it’s the uncertainty that is fraying nerves and affecting morale.
“Of course we would all like to see no furlough days, but it’s the not knowing ... just the fact that everything is up in the air,” said Gerald Mellott, president of the Local 1429 National Federation of Federal Employees.
The number of furlough days is still unclear, he said.
“They are still haggling in Washington on reducing it further,” Mellott said.
“There’s nothing really set in stone. I think people would feel better if there was something that was definite. Of course, we would all like to see no furlough days,” he said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the House Armed Services Committee last week that he is examing whether it’s possible to further reduce furlough days.
“Maybe we can get better, maybe we can’t,” Hagel told the committee.
The budget sequester, which took effect in March, requires the Defense Department to trim $41 billion in spending this fiscal year, according to the DOD website.
Financially, Letterkenny workers would take a big hit if there is a furlough, Mellott said.
“It’s going to hurt. Nobody can afford to lose 14 days of pay,” Mellott said. “We all live from paycheck to paycheck pretty much.”
The depot has held financial workshops for employees about managing their money.
The workshops seemed to help a bit with morale, Mellott said.
“A 20 percent cut in pay is a pretty huge chunk,” he said.
It’s going to affect everyone, he said.
“It’s going to affect the businesses in the area, because if you’re bringing in less money, you’re going to tend to not spend money. Where you might have eaten out two or three times a week, now you might only eat out once. So, that reflects on the eating establishments in the area,” he said.
Ross has always said that if a furlough occurs, Letterkenny will receive the direct hit, but the rest of the community will see a ripple effect.
“That’s a significant reduction (20 percent),” Ross said. “I don’t know how families are going to deal with that without having an impact on the local economy, if a furlough takes place.”
Ross said he wants to see Congress and the administration working toward no furlough.
Mellott said if a furlough is implemented in mid- to late June, furlough papers must be issued 30 days before the furlough.
“We’re reaching that benchmark where we have to be issued our furlough papers. They have 30 days before they can effect the furloughs,” Mellott said. “If they want to institute a furlough in mid- to late June, that means mid- to late May they have to institute furlough papers.”