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Civilian employees protest start of furloughs at Fort Bliss and William Beaumont Army Medical Center

Civilian employees protest start of furloughs at Fort Bliss and William Beaumont Army Medical Center
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POSTED: Monday, July 8, 2013 - 7:01am

UPDATED: Monday, July 8, 2013 - 2:40pm

Starting Monday 650,000 Defense Department civilian employees throughout the United States will be on furlough, and the furloughs will directly impact civilian employees at Fort Bliss and William Beaumont Army Medical Center.

Civilian employees will be forced to take one unpaid day off each week through September 21.  The 11 furlough days add up to a 20-percent pay cut.  The loss of income can range anywhere between a couple of hundred dollars a month to nearly $2,000 per month, depending on how much the employees get paid.

The furlough days are a result of $85 billion in federal spending cuts that went into effect March 1. The 11 days are down from the 22 furlough days that were originally planned.

At William Beaumont Army Medical Center, the furloughs are expected to cause delays at the pharmacy, and patients may also have to wait longer to schedule a doctor's appointment.

Paul Ferris, president of the local American Federation of Government Employees Union, organized a rally outside of William Beaumont Army Medical Center Monday morning to protest the furloughs.  It was his first furlough day.  He also organized a different rally with civilian hospital employees in March, 2013.

In March, Ferris said the furloughs will have the most devastating impact on civilian employees.

"We've got members that are not going to be able to pay their bills, single parents that are not going to be able to feed their children in the same way they're used to feeding the children," said Ferris in March.

Unions are also predicting economic problems for communities such as El Paso, which depend on military bases where thousands of furloughed employees live, work and spend their money.

Fort Bliss officials have scheduled a press conference at 10 a.m. Monday, to address the furloughs. 

Defense worker Stephanie Loyd's first furlough day is Friday, July 12. An IT specialist and an Air Force veteran, Loyd has been trying to cram in as much purchasing of information technology contracts as she can to keep programs running at the White Sands Missile Range in Las Cruces, N.M.

"We're doing more work with less people, and now we have less time do it in and less pay to do it with," she said.

It also means her daughter, a sophomore at New Mexico State University, will have to return home this fall instead of living on campus. With a family of five, "we can't afford to have her living in the dorms on a 20-percent pay cut," Loyd said.

The Obama administration has recently been criticized for what critics say were over-the-top warnings about widespread damage from spending cuts. They say that sequester hasn't led to any of those dire outcomes.

Some of the most noticeable effects were blunted by Congress, which stopped furloughs in the airline and food industries. Programs that help the poor, sick and elderly, however, have already taken devastating blows.

The furloughs don't affect those on active military duty. Another 150,000 of the agency's 800,000 civilian workers have also managed to avoid them because their jobs have been deemed critical. They include intelligence officers, Navy shipyard builders, Army firefighters and foreign nationals.

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