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Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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Shutdown hits local families

While Washington politicians grandstand for cameras, the partial government shutdown already is hurting local military families and operations at MacDill Air Force Base.

Col. Scott DeThomas, the base commander, announced at a press conference Wednesday that at least 1,500 of MacDill’s 4,000 civilian workers were being furloughed indefinitely.

This will amount to a loss of about $400,000 in salaries a day, which will have a ripple effect throughout the economy. It also will strain the finances of the affected families, many of whom already endured eight furlough days as part of the sequestration budget cuts.

Moreover, the furloughs increase the workload on those who remain on the job.

As DeThomas told the Tribune’s Howard Altman, “One of the downfalls is that every time something like this happens, we find ways to get through it, sometimes on the backs of airmen who have to work longer hours making up for the great airmen who aren’t here today.”

The base commissary also will be closed, which will represent a particular hardship for young base personnel because it offers about a 30 percent discount on groceries.

The shutdown’s impact on MacDill will extend far beyond the base borders.

The shutdown put in limbo $9 million in commercial contracts scheduled for October. The contracts may end up having to be terminated.

Bob Rohrlack, CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, says another $140 million in contracts are in jeopardy.

All this, Rohrlack says, is going to deal a serious blow to the local economy.

Such matters don’t appear to concern the political divas who seem to relish the havoc they have caused.

Of course, they’re still getting paid, as are other members of Congress and the president, while many others will be hurt.

MacDill’s experience is a microcosm of what is happening to military communities throughout the nation as the Pentagon furloughs at least 400,000 workers.

At Fort Bragg, N.C., one of the nation’s largest bases, USA Today reports about half of the 14,500 civilian workforce will be furloughed.

This will result in cutbacks in family counseling and survivor outreach. The shutdown also will force reduction to a service where families make free phone calls to loved ones in Afghanistan and other foreign assignments.

Rohrlack and other business leaders have been pleading with the local delegation to quickly agree on a solution. He surely speaks for the majority of Americans when he says, “We need them focusing on the country, not playing politics.”

Indeed, all Americans should expect better from Congress than this job-killing shutdown.

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