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."