Washington, D.C.—While sequestration will undercut seriously the ability of federal agencies to serve the public, that is only part of the severe human toll it will take on dedicated middle class federal employees, the head of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) said today.
An NTEU survey of its members facing the likelihood of unpaid furloughs even as their pay remains frozen for more than two years reveals grave concerns about making ends meet, going further into debt, delaying medical treatment, facing difficulty in paying for child care, school tuition and other educational expenses. More than 2,200 NTEU members answered the survey.
“These are not theoretical consequences,” said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley.
“These are actual, serious problems that real people will face, with lasting impact on their lives.”
The NTEU survey showed some of the effects on federal agencies of reduced budgets in recent years: two-thirds said they see a hiring freeze; nearly eight in 10 said employees who leave are not being replaced; 48 percent said critical work is not getting done, while another 68 percent said their agency lacks the resources to complete their missions properly.
As for personal consequences, the survey revealed that because of the ongoing pay freeze, nearly three in four respondents have had to cut back on necessities; two-thirds are having trouble making ends meet; 60 percent are getting further into debt; nearly 30 percent have had to seek loans or assistance to pay their bills; and four in ten said they have delayed medical treatment to save money.
Eighty-two percent said the loss of pay due to a furlough as a result of sequestration would result in trouble paying their rent or mortgage, utility bills and food expenses; more than six in 10 said they would have to take money from savings or retirement for current bills; and 19 percent noted that a furlough would be particularly damaging since their spouse already has lost a job or suffered a pay cut.
At a media briefing today, President Kelley introduced five NTEU members from the Internal Revenue Service and Customs and Border Protection who spoke about the impact on their agencies, as well as on themselves and their families.
They are among hundreds of federal employees who will visit with their members of Congress this week as part of NTEU’s 2013 Legislative Conference to tell their stories of how the public and the economy will suffer under a sequester.
They also will emphasize that federal workers already have contributed $103 billion to deficit reduction through the pay freeze, which began in January 2011, and because of higher pension contributions, with no increase in annuity, from new federal hires.
“Their stories will underscore how, under sequestration, federal workers and their families will face financial hardships, including foreclosure, making hard choices about medical care and choices between paying bills and putting food on their tables,” President Kelley said.
Noting that planned sequestration would be “doubly harmful” because of its requirement that each project, program and activity be cut by the same percentage—thus robbing agencies of the discretion to ensure that the highest priority programs are hit the least—the
NTEU leader added: “Enough is enough. We need a balanced, common-sense approach to sequestration.”
NTEU is the largest independent federal union, representing 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.