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Federal Workers Worry About Furloughs, Firings

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Michael Bodaken of the National Housing Trust is worried about potential impacts of sequestration on housing for the needy.
Jared Angle
Michael Bodaken of the National Housing Trust is worried about potential impacts of sequestration on housing for the needy.

Budget debates on Capitol Hill involve wonky discussions about procurements, tax policy, and where to place a decimal point. Just down the street in the agencies and contracting firms that carry out Congress mandates, different discussions are occurring — ones about furloughs, firings and steep pay cuts.

"I mean it's definitely office talk," says Michael, a 43-year-old husband and father of two. As an environmental engineer with a contractor who works for the Defense Department, he fears getting laid off if those cuts hit the Pentagon. He says his firm and family are already suffering.

"You can't really plan, because we thought this would be a done deal as of Jan. 2," he says.

It's not just defense. The other half a trillion dollars in budget cuts would hit nearly the entire federal budget. Experts say many cuts don't make sense.

Let's look at housing. In D.C. alone, there are nearly 5,000 elderly or disabled households that depend on Section 8 housing. Under sequestration, Section 8 would be slashed.

Michael Bodaken of the National Housing Trust says the government would have to pay about $40,000 more in nursing home fees for each elderly Medicaid recipient moved off Section 8 housing.

"It's important to not just think about the people, which are fundamental, but also for those who are counting money in the federal government," he sys. "Think about what the cost of the displacement of these households and what the federal government is going to have to do once that occurs."

President Obama wants Congress to delay the sequestration from hitting agencies next month. Republicans are cool to the idea, which leaves this divided government once again facing a scenario that could ripple through the economy in the region.


This story was informed by WAMU's Public Insight Network. It's a way for people to share their stories with us and for us to reach out for input on upcoming stories.
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