Robins AFB employees, businesses feel effects of furloughs

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — If the reality of furloughs hasn’t quite set in for Robins Air Force Base employees, they are getting a great big dose of it this week.

The 11-week furlough period began last week, but this is the first time employees will see the loss in their paychecks. Depending on the employee’s bank, the checks are direct-deposited on Thursday or Friday.

Due to federal budget cuts, employees are getting furloughed one day a week through September, which means they are losing 20 percent of their pay during that period. However, the total hurt won’t be felt until the next pay period in two weeks. This week’s check only includes the one day of furlough last week.

Ron Hill, an aircraft mechanic and union representative, said he will lose about $400 in the next pay period.

“You cut back on everything,” he said. “The bills are still coming, but the paychecks are getting smaller.”

Most of the 15,000 civilian employees are being furloughed on Fridays, which naturally is getting to known as Furlough Friday.

Some local businesses are trying to do their part to help. Robins Federal Credit Union is offering its customers who work at the base a range of services to assist during the furlough period. Those include special furlough loans, a skip-a-payment option, refinancing car loans, extending terms of current loans and home mortgage loan assistance.

“Robins Federal Credit Union understands these are difficult times for many people in Central Georgia who work for the federal government and may be effected by furloughs,” John Rhea, president and CEO of the credit union, said in a release.

Strandz Salon & Spa in Warner Robins is offering furloughed employees 20 percent off all products and services on the second and last Friday of each month. Other Warner Robins businesses offering discounts include the Courtyard Marriott, the Landings Golf Club, and Colours Salon. The Lily Room at Classic Hair Designs in Bonaire and the Jolly Nut Company in Fort Valley also are offering discounts.

More details about the offerings are at the 21st Century Partnership’s website, www.21stcenturypartnership.com.

The 21st Century Partnership, which advocates for Robins, is planning another event to help furloughed employees.

The event is called S.H.A.R.E., which stands for Sharing, Help and Assistance Resources for Everyone. The first was held June 15 at the Houston County Galleria, and now one is planned for Aug. 9 at the Courtyard Marriott at 589 Carl Vinson Parkway in Warner Robins, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The event is organized by the partnership, the United Way of Central Georgia and the Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce. Chrissy Miner, chief operations officer for the partnership, said about 200 people attended the first event, but she is expecting more this time now that furloughs have started.

Miner pointed out that many couples both have jobs at Robins, which means they will lose 40 percent of their pay during the furlough period.

The partnership has estimated the furloughs will mean a $50 million loss in spending power. Local businesses already are seeing an impact.

Ken McCall, owner of McCall’s restaurant on Commercial Circle, said his business was off by about 50 percent last Friday. He has seen losses in the past from large furloughs, such as in the school system, but he said typically people are tighter with their dollars at the beginning.

“I think the immediate reaction is to stop spending,” he said. “I hope they will realize the sky is not falling.”

Gus Maturana, owner of Emilio’s Cuban Cafe just south of the base, said business last Friday was down but not as much as he was expecting. The majority of his customers are base employees, but he said business was off only by about 10 percent.

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