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Locals tighten purse strings during furloughs

Catherine Sabas, a Potomac Falls High School graduate and an IT professional with the government, has had a less than thrilling week.

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.


“We met the enemy, and it’s us” 1980 USAF Captain.

“It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than open ones mouth and remove all doubt.” Mark Twain

@Dan P. Don’t get me started with federal employees and ethics. I’ve worked on 5 projects over 20 years and at least half of the govt employees on those projects shouldn’t even have had a job. Most are unqualified and have no background in latest technology. There are a few good/great ones.

Cowbell, a lot of federal employees are covered by ethics laws that prevent many different outside activities while on furlough (including volunteer work). Some of it (a lot of it) is probably OK, but most employees don’t want to even get close to an ethics violation. Especially if their ethics officer is on furlough, they don’t have anyone that can clear their volunteer work.

The Government has been shutdown for (9) Days. I cannot believe it’s really that bad when (a) Paychecks only go out every 14-15 days. So those impacted have yet to really be impacted. It’s not like people get paid everyday.

I’m sure many government employees feel a bit like rag dolls tossed around in the maelstrom of democracy – pawns perhaps.  I was somewhat heartened by the historical context to George Will’s interview on NPR this morning.  Will points out that this “is the Madisonian scheme” in action.  Democratic government “is supposed to be difficult to move.”  And I agree with him there.  So let’s not be shocked by the mechanisms of our government.  Instead, understand that we are in the midst of “an attempt to moderate, through a deliberative process, the passions that are endemic to popular government.”  However, I don’t agree that this should be shrugged off as business as usual.  And so we wait - not for one side to blink – we wait for the passions of a few in the House to give way to reason.  Unfortunately, as Edmund Burke said, “No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”  So it may be a long wait.  And it may be a while before the Republican Party rids itself of the fearful stench that is the Tea Party.

With all the free time, why not volunteer???

Just remember come election time, that Cucinelli pandered to that Cruz Tea Party guy recently, while you and I aren’t getting paid.

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