Budget

Feds worry about mission, personal lives under sequester

worried man finances

Federal employees worry about paying bills or possibly having to take on debt to survive the sequester. (Stock image)

Federal employees are concerned sequestration will hamper agency performance, according to a new survey, but what really worries them are the devastating personal consequences it could bring.

To assess the current the impact of looming budget cuts, the pay freeze and sequestration on the government workforce, the National Treasury Employees Union surveyed its members. More than 2,250 federal employees completed the electronic poll.

The findings hint at how reduced budgets are already affecting federal agencies: Two-thirds said they see a hiring freeze, and nearly eight in 10 said employees who leave are not being replaced. Almost half said critical work is not getting done, while another 68 percent said their agency cannot complete its work appropriately.

Cutbacks also hit on a more personal level. Because of the pay freeze, nearly 75 percent of respondents have had to cut back on necessities, while two-thirds are having trouble making ends meet. Sixty percent are sinking deeper into debt; nearly 30 percent have had to rely on loans or other help to pay their bills.

Furloughs as part of sequestration would make it difficult for 80 percent to pay their rent or mortgage, utility bills and food. Sixty percent said they would have to dip into their savings or retirement plans to pay for expenses. A furlough would be especially harmful for 19 percent whose spouses have already lost a job or suffered a pay cut.

"These are not theoretical consequences," said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley, who called for "a balanced, common-sense" strategy to sequestration. "These are actual, serious problems that real people will face, with lasting impact on their lives."

Federal employees do also fret about the impact of the budget cuts on their agency missions, the survey also shows.

Survey repondents said consequences of an extra 5 percent cut at agencies could include:

  •  The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program may not meet the needs of potential eligible applicants.
  •  U.S. borders would be more vulnerable than ever for terrorists to enter the country.
  •  Taxpayers would not get their refunds and the government would not be able to collect on taxes owed.
  •  Destructive pests and diseases will slip into the country, wreaking economic havoc in California and the rest of the country.
  •  Food safety would become an issue, and public notice of recalls would be affected.
  •  Toxic releases will go unreported and contaminated sites will not get cleaned up. Public comments and concerns will go unaddressed in regulatory processes, and grant funding will not be available to states, local governments, businesses and organizations.

survey chart

This chart, taken from NTEU's sequestration survey, shows how the sequester is already affecting agencies.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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