Government shutdown forces Corps furloughs

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 11, 2013 at 10:16 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 11 at 10:43 PM

Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
Email: bcapo@wwltv.com | Twitter: @billcapo

NEW ORLEANS -- These are uncertain times at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans headquarters. There are 1100 employees in this district, and leaders are watching the impact of the government shutdown begin as funds start to dry up, forcing furloughs.

"It's tight enough that what we're doing every day is having a morning meeting, every morning, looking at the payroll from the day before, seeing what money we used, and seeing that we have enough money to get through the next couple of days," explained Corps Of Engineers spokesman Ken Holder.

Already two dozen employees have been furloughed -- 15 from the dredge ship Wheeler and nine stationed at the Bonnet Carre spillway.

But major projects like the city drainage improvement program called SELA, and installing permanent pumps and gates along the Lakefront at the three drainage canals are not affected by the shutdown.

"The hurricane Storm Damange Reproduction System, SELA projects, those things are ongoing," said Holder.

But the key question for employees here, and at government installations across the country is, how much worse can the furloughs get, if the government shutdown doesn't end any time soon?

"I would say anytime within the next two months or 30 days, you're probably looking at starting to furlough more and more employees," said Holder. Eventually only a skeleton crew would be on duty, working without paychecks.

"Congress passed a bill that there would be retroactive pay," said Holder. "But the people that would be the skeleton crew, like in Public Affairs, for instance, where I'm at, I'll be the only one left. I would continue to get paid, but it would be at some point in the future. It wouldn't be the every two week check that we get."

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