Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Thousands of civilian Defense Department employees are bracing for furloughs forced on them by the sequestration budget cuts.
Derek Valcourt explains those furloughs will hit especially hard at Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County.
The pain should kick in around July 8. Employees will lose one day of pay a week for 11 weeks. That amounts to a 20% pay cut for thousands of civilian Department of Defense employees working out of Fort Meade and the US Naval Academy. Defense officials point out the 11 furlough days are about half of what was originally anticipated after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel cut spending in other areas to lessen the pain.
“We’ve taken it as close to the line as we can and still be capable of protecting this country and this country’s interests around the world,” said Hagel.
Still, 11 furlough days amount to a crippling budget hit for many Maryland families.
“It means that you’re going to have to cut spending somewhere in your life,” said Claire Louder.
Louder runs the West County Chamber of Commerce, which operates in the area around Fort Meade—the state’s largest employer.
“That’s going to impact the businesses in our community,” Louder said.
Some of those businesses are already feeling the impact, like the Little House of Flowers in Gambrills.
“Flowers—definitely something that falls under discretionary spending,” said owner Julie Upchurch.
Upchurch says since defense furloughs were first announced this year, they’ve already noticed a difference in their bottom line and expect it will get worse.
“And what it does to a business like ours, it kind of puts the brakes on it a little bit and people are a little less likely to spend their discretionary funds on something like this. They may need it to pay their mortgage in a month,” Upchurch said.
The employees affected by those furloughs should be getting written notification sometime around June 5.
The sequestration first took effect in March, forcing $1 trillion of across the board budget cuts.