Locals tighten purse strings during furloughs
Starting Oct. 2, she's gotten out of bed no earlier than 11 a.m. She's watched Netflix for hours on end, puttered around on Facebook and done laundry. She's cleaned her house so much that it is, in her words, “spotless.” Arlington's Z-Burger offered free hamburgers for furloughed employees, so she went out to dinner once.
Conscious of income and bored to tears, Sabas is one of thousands of federal employees furloughed after last week's government shutdown.
“It's a little different than a snow day when you're younger,” Sabas said. “I can't really go anywhere. It's not the most fun vacation.”
Businesses in the area are courting to employees hit by the government shutdown, offering everything from discount fitness classes to drink specials for those with federal IDs.
“It's just a nice thing to do,” said Bob Caloc, owner of Crushed Cellars winery in Waterford. His group is offering 15 percent off wine purchases with a government ID. “It's a way to give back to people who are working hard.”
Caloc said that while some have utilized the discount, it hasn't been disproportionate comparatively; many of his regulars are government employees, anyway.
But while some federal employees are taking advantage of discounts, many are simply laying low as they ponder their paychecks. Though the House of Representatives passed a bill to give back pay to furloughed employees, the Senate as of Oct. 8 had not, though it is expected to do so in the coming days.
“I'm not trying to spend any money at all,” Sabas lamented. “I know a lot of other people are in the same boat.”
And while federal employees are the only ones getting discounts, they certainly aren't the only ones feeling the burn.
In the Washington region, government contracting is a $70 billion industry. But even they're struggling in the government whirlwind.
Robert McClure, an Ashburn resident and one of the executives of Tenacity Solutions, a government contracting group in Reston, said his company has had to furlough around 80 percent of its employees.
“We have been instructed by contracting officers: do not report,” McClure said. “We are treated differently by the resolution. The federal employees will receive back pay but we may never receive back pay. It will be done on a contract by contract basis.”
McClure said that with the furlough, there is a cash flow issue – the company has payments to make without the previous line of credit from the government coming in.
Meanwhile, Tenacity's employees are looking at taking loans against their 401k plans or collecting unemployment.
McClure said that if the situation is resolved within the week, operations should resume to normal in 30 days. But if workers are still furloughed and the debt ceiling isn't increased, McClure said the results for his company could be “catastrophic.”
Both McClure and Sabas hope the situation will be resolved before then, though they are not optimistic.
For now, McClure, Sabas and other federal employees and contractors can just wait and hope the government is able to fix itself soon.