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South Sound prepares for impact of JBLM furloughs

The furlough pain hits Joint Base Lewis-McChord this week as 6,700 civilians working at the base prepare to take their first mandatory days off.

Many of them took their frustration out on Congressman Denny Heck and the base commander during a town hall conference call last night.

Lakewood’s Laurie Hill asked the question of Congressman Heck that many are wondering, just how will that many workers taking a 20 percent pay cut over the next three months hurt the economy.

“How do you think this is going to trickle down into the local communities?” Hill asked.

“I think people are going to eat out less,” Congressman Heck answered. “They are going to defer car maintenance or some kind of home improvement or roof repair. You name it. That’s just the reality.”

Some JBLM workers are worried that their jobs will be taken over during those days off, and they might be out of a job entirely when the dust settles.

Colonel Charles Hodges addressed that.

“We have not back filled any furloughed positions or have any plans to back fill any furloughed positions with either uniformed personnel or contractors,” he said. “There’s no one coming in behind you to pick up the slack during the furlough period.”

Friday is the first furlough day for these 6,700 civilian workers.

Services impacted range from medical care at Madigan, housing, training and even the base’s main helicopter field.

Congressman Heck made it quite clear in answering the questions during the conference call that the sequester was not the way to handle the budget issues and that a much better plan needs to be put in place to keep similar cuts and furloughs from pushing into 2014.

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