With furloughs for Rock Island Arsenal employees about a month away,speakers at a Quad-City Federation of Labor forum in Rock Island Wednesday said sequestration may stall the local economy.
About 30 temporary and contracted employees were cut from the arsenal last week, according to Steve Beck of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 15.
Nearly all arsenal employees will be required to take one furlough day per week starting April 22 through the end of September, said Mr. Beck, who also is an arsenal employee.
Under sequestration, which began March 1, approximately $1.2 billion in across-the-board cuts will be made to government agencies during the next 10 years. Those cuts include$200 million of the arsenal's budget, Mr. Beck said; $40 million of that would have otherwise been spent on employees.
The impact on arsenal employees is "huge," he said; their incomes will be trimmed by about 20 percent. But Mr. Beck said it's difficult to estimate how it will affect the rest of the area.
"It's going to broadly impact the economy and those in need of government services," he said.
Sandy Walters, executive director of Humility of Mary Housing, said the sequester will affect social services that largely benefit seniors and veterans. With 29 percent of her budget financed by federal grants, she said sequestration may force her to cut staff.
Tracy Leone, an organizer for the Iowa Federation of Labor, said she expects sequestration will have a large impact on the local economy. The salary cuts will mean less money circulating through the Quad-Cities, he said.
"Altogether it's going to send our economy into a tailspin," she added.
Mr. Beck said sequestration may not return the economy to recession levels, and employees outside of government may not feel the effects right away. But those effects are inevitable, he said, unless people contact their legislators.
The sequester's negative effects still can be avoided, he said, if enough people convince lawmakers that the "ideological debate" over the the size of the government is less important than maintaining jobs and government services.
"No one knows how it's going to play out," he said. "We've never been here before."
Today is Wednesday, Dec. 11, the 345th day of 2013. There are 20 days left in the year. 1863 — 150 years ago: The message of Abraham Lincoln, read in congress yesterday, is published in full in our paper today, with a new proclamation relating the terms upon which states can return to the union. 1888 — 125 years ago: An appropriation has been made by congress for the improvement of the upper Mississippi River with $200,000 set aside for the portion of the river between Keokuk and the mouth of the Illinois River. 1913 — 100 years ago: Work of remodeling First Swedish Lutheran Church at 4th Avenue and 14th Street was nearly completed. 1938 — 75 years ago: An unexplained outbreak of tularemia (rabbit fever) in the state has Illinois public health officials puzzled. Ten persons have died, and 243 are officially reported ill with the infection. 1963 — 50 years ago: A dramatic, multi-million dollar riverfront improvement project for the downtown area of Rock Island was unveiled at a meeting of 200 civic leaders at noon today. 1988 — 25 years ago: For several supporters of the Dispatch Goodfellow/Argus Santa program their donation is a year long project. Emma Pugh and Anne Persinger spent a good part of their spare time this year knitting forty pairs of mittens and slippers.