Federal workers fret about jobs as sequestration looms
Lawyer Lynnette Rodgers faced a choice last year as she weighed job offers, one from the Social Security Administration and a second from the Cuyahoga County government in Ohio, where she lived.
The county job would keep her close to home, while moving to the Washington area would have her paying about twice as much for housing. But Rodgers took the federal job, she said, because she thought she could make a difference in the lives of more people.
Now, with the threat of sequestration hanging over the federal government, she is worried about whether she made the right choice.
During a two-year job search, Rodgers wiped out her savings to support herself. A layoff or unemployment could devastate her finances. “I don’t have enough reserve built up to take a furlough right now,” Rodgers said. “I gave away all of my furniture to get down here.”
Her worries are shared by workers in many corners of the federal government, where concern is simmering over the automatic cuts that will be implemented by law in the event that Congress does not act.
“I think they’re concerned but not panicking,” said Beth Moten, director of legislative and political affairs for the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest union representing federal workers.
Moten said that most federal employees as well as the union believe that despite hyper-partisan exchanges in Washington, the political parties will come to some agreement to defuse the crisis before the Jan. 2 deadline.
The Obama administration, locked in a political game of chicken with congressional Republicans, has issued few details about how sequestration would be implemented, instead insisting that Congress resolve the standoff.
“We’re not getting a lot of information from the agencies about what would happen,” Moten said.
A July 31 memo to the heads of federal department and agencies from Jeffrey Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, said that the amount of money that would be cut from agencies cannot be calculated until the fiscal 2013 budget is approved.
“In the meantime, agencies should continue normal spending and operations since more than 5 months remain for Congress to act,” Zients wrote.
The “Sequestration Transparency Act,” signed Aug. 7 by the president, requires the administration to submit, within 30 days of enactment, a detailed report on the effect the action would have on the federal government, including reductions at the program, project and activity level.
Sequestration would require cuts of more than $100 billion next year, an amount that could translate to 10 percent of defense spending and 8 percent of non-defense discretionary spending