PHOTO CAPTION: The Pentagon with the Washington Monument and National Mall in the background.
July 22, 2013
By Jim Dresbach, Pentagram Staff Writer
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - As calendars and appointment books are now dotted with days off, and checkbooks and bank accounts shrink, federal employees are taking to social media sites and relaying their financial and overall experiences regarding the sequestration-mandated furloughs.
Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Commander Fern O. Sumpter offered advice to the 1,500 civilian joint base employees - the majority of whom face losing up to 20 percent of their annual pay.
"Financially, look at what you can do that's not a cost," the colonel said during a Pentagram interview. "I'm not going to tell someone how to manage their finances. There are a ton of free museums. Read a book, go to the library, volunteer, take a class. There are a lot of things people can do to get beyond the stress and strain of the furlough."
Through the winter, Department of Defense civilian workers were warned to prepare for up to 11 furlough days; those first days of unpaid leave began July 8. The month of July now heads toward August and more furlough days are accumulating, and online posts are getting edgier explaining government staffers' plights, feelings and observations.
One furloughed government worker mentioned via Facebook that "anger/resignation and disgust" have set in.
"Even though I knew it [sequestration] was coming, I'm a little shell shocked myself," she said in a post.
One government worker noted that she had home improvement payments deferred "so I can survive." One thread, which informally was titled "congressmen of the day to contact," paid attention to how furloughed employees may contact Capitol Hill.
While frustration and anger is vented and tweeted daily, one female readied for week three of furloughs by providing a positive attitude on just having work.
Her post read: "I've worked for DoD for 28 years, dedicated my career to helping our war fighters, and I'm not happy about the furlough. But, I have a job, I live a decent life. Life is good."
Then there are those new government employees who will soon be juggling sequestration with another widely-debated hot potato - student loans. Just-graduated Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Public Affairs Office intern Lauren Poindexter faces the double whammy of furlough and student loan payments.
"I won't see a true check until after furlough," Poindexter said. "I won't know what a true, full check is until the furlough is over. I can't really properly budget. My loan payments start in October."
The government stresses that furlough dates and the end of the current run of unpaid leave could change at any time.