The trip to Walt Disney World with the kids during Christmas this year?
Weaver resident Doris Askew’s household budget has taken a few hits in recent weeks. But with impending furloughs at the Anniston Army Depot where she works, Askew doesn’t have much choice if she wants to make ends meet.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Congress on Wednesday that due to massive military budget cuts scheduled to begin March 1, the Department of Defense is planning furloughs for its civilian workforce — potentially cutting work hours in 2013 for Askew and the other 2,883 permanent civilian employees at the depot. And though the furloughs are still pending, the uncertainty of the situation is forcing Askew and some of her fellow workers to cut back on spending.
Clester Burdell, spokeswoman for the depot, wrote in an email to The Star that officials were uncertain how the proposed furloughs might affect employees.
“At this point we do not know specifics,” Burdell said. “We are unsure of how the work schedule would change for depot employees.”
However, Askew said one of the recent routine memos she and her fellow employees received from the DOD stated that depot workers could be furloughed two days per pay period, totaling 22 days of unpaid leave for the year — accounting for about 20 percent of her paycheck.
A single mother with a 4-year-old, a high-schooler and a college student, Askew cannot afford much more than the essentials after taking a 20 percent pay cut, she said.
“I’m just going to have to make cuts,” Askew said. “And I’m still worried that if Congress cannot get along … that this is not a one-time issue.”
Unless Congress comes up with an alternate plan by March 1 to avoid the scheduled spending cuts, known as sequestration, DOD will need to shave $470 billion from its budget over the next 10 years.
Jerome Douthitt of Jacksonville, who has worked at the depot for nearly 13 years, said the potential furloughs will significantly affect him in the coming months, particularly since his wife also works at the facility.
“I’m having to cut back on a lot of things,” Douthitt said. “And you really can’t even schedule anything ... I was planning to go to Florida.”
Douthitt noted that his daughter will graduate from high school this year and will need money for graduation pictures, the prom and other things.
“It’ll be a challenge,” Douthitt said.
Douthitt said the uncertainty of the furloughs itself brings its own challenges.
“It’s still stressful every day going here, going to work and not knowing if it’s going to hit or not,” he said.
Scott Kay of Lincoln has worked at the depot for eight years, and like Askew he received a memo that stated he could lose 22 days’ worth of pay this year from furloughs. Kay said it will be a struggle to pay for the necessities with such cuts.
“I’m going to be trying to pay bills,” Kay said. “If I even have vacation time, I’ll have to spend it in other ways, maybe take a second job.”
Kay said he expects many of his fellow employees to be in similar situations if the furloughs come to pass.
“Lots of people may lose houses or cars,” Kay said. “I don’t know many people who can take 22 days off.”
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.