March 23, 2013 9:29:40 PM
Sarah Fowler - [email protected]
As furloughs loom for 800,000 of the nation's government contract workers, one Columbus man is bracing himself for the financial hit.
Carmine Muscarella, a life coach at Columbus Air Force Base, said he expects the furlough notices to begin this week. For Muscarella and the other 472 contract workers employed through CAFB, that means a 20 percent reduction per pay period due to sequestration.
Of the 1,277 civilian employees, only 472 are considered appropriated civil service workers.
If a furlough occurs, contract workers across the United States have been told to expect eight hours per week cut from their work schedules.
Muscarella, a single father of three girls, said if the furloughs do take effect, he will have to look for a part-time job to supplement his income.
"If this happens I will absolutely pursue other forms of income," he said. "If they take away our hours here at work, apart from spending more time with my kids so I don't have to pay for extra childcare, I will be devoting more time and energy to other streams of income."
Muscarella said he has been preparing for the furlough since he first heard of the sequestration. While he was originally optimistic and hoped Congress could reach a resolution, Muscarella became discouraged when watching the actions of the legislature and felt the furloughs were imminent.
"My opinion changed when the congressional deadline came up for them to take action and all the congressmen started leaving Washington on Thursday," he said. "That was a personal signal to me that they have given up hope on being able to resolve this on time."
President Barack Obama announced the expected furloughs March 1.
CAFB Commander Jim Sears has expressed concerns about the impact the furloughs will have on the morale among contract workers.
"We are deeply, deeply, concerned about the negative effects of furloughs on the morale and effectiveness of our valued civilian work force," Sears said during a press conference last month.
Muscarella, who was previously on active duty in the United States Air Force, said he has been advising other families on base on how to prepare for such a drastic loss of income.
"I've been telling them to look at their budget, look at luxuries versus necessities," he said. "Luxuries go first."
He said those luxuries include cable, expensive data plans for cell phones, going out to dinner and going to the movies.
"I've got three girls," he said. "By the time my family goes to the movies, we've spent thirty or forty bucks on a movie we're only going to see once. That's a luxury."
Muscarella has already started cutting his budget and encouraged others to do the same.
"I absolutely will be trimming out excess things that aren't necessary," he said. "I've looked at where I can cut and reduce. A lot of luxuries will get reduced if my income goes down. Unfortunately that's one of the big ripples in the pond that I don't think people took into account."
With 800,000 people losing 20 percent of their income, money that would have been going into the economy will now be lost, Muscarella said.
"They need to wake up and really appreciate the gravity of this," he said. "This is a major impact on our nation's economy. You're talking about a million people who are going to have a drastic reduction in income. When we get cut, the amount of money we put into our communities is going to decrease drastically.
"If I (were to) go out to eat or go to a movie, I would have to hire a babysitter. Now, I won't be doing any of those things. The babysitter, the restaurant, the movie theater doesn't make that money. There's a lot more to it than just a few people getting a reduction in hours."
Before the furloughs take place, the government must give the workers a 30-day notice. They, in turn, then have 30 days to file an appeal.
The first furlough is slated to begin April 25 and will extend over 11 pay periods, from April 21 to Sept. 21.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.