With Monday marking the start of several months of furloughs due to federal sequestration budget cuts, concern is growing about the impact they will have on government workers across the nation.
The furloughs will affect 650,000 federal employees. As of Monday, employees will have to take one day off a week until September 21, which amounts to a 20% pay cut. The impacted employees include those who work at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Burlington and Ocean Counties.
“We’re going to be doing more with less,” said Anthony Ellison, a firefighter and EMT worker for the base.
Ellison fears people’s safety will be put at risk.
“They’re headed towards some type of catastrophe,” he said.
Ellison says evening and overnight staffing will fall to critical levels with a 20% reduction, which amounts to ten fewer firefighters per shift. Ellison also says two of the base’s five fire stations will be shut down, which could create longer response times.
“Something bad is going to happen,” Ellison said. “Whether it’s on base, off base or where we could have helped but won’t be there.”
Ellison also says at times firefighters at the base won’t be responding to mutual aid calls in several nearby communities in Burlington and Ocean Counties where volunteer fire companies serve.
“I’m very concerned,” said John Eisenbarger of Pemberton Borough.
Eisenbarger was on furlough on Monday from his own job with the Navy.
“If our own firefighters needed help they wouldn’t be there to back them up,” he said.
Karla Espinoza, also of Pemberton Borough, is equally concerned.
“If they don’t get it fast and if they don’t have help, it could become a big problem.”
A spokesperson for the base responded to the furlough fears in a written statement.
“The safety and security of our military and civilian personnel is our number one priority,” he wrote. “We will continue working together as one to ensure mission requirements are met and to mitigate any safety, security or mission impediments posed by the furloughs.”