Business leaders meet to discuss sequester effects

March 4, 2013 3:54:56 PM PST
Business leaders from four area counties met Monday to discuss civilian furloughs due to the sequester and to figure out solutions that can last at least 22 weeks.

"It's not the 1950s, and especially in our community, there aren't those family members to take care of children," said Partnership for Children President Eva Hansen.

The Partnership for Children of Cumberland County receives $500,000 a year in federal aid to train and pay teachers and childcare providers. It funds programs in eight counties across the Sandhills.

By mid-April, they'll know who has a job, what programs will be cut and parents will figure out what to do from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. when the daycare is closed.

"Sometimes you just don't realize it until something isn't there," said Hansen.

Hansen said perhaps the one of the most devastating effect of civilian furloughs on Fort Bragg are the parents who will find themselves in a different income bracket, and unable to afford childcare at all.

"It's the ripple effect," said Hansen. "Will they move that child out the childcare program and then if a number of children move out childcare programs, they'll close some classrooms and then those teachers will get laid off. So you might say I don't have anything to do with Fort Bragg or Pope. We all do. If we live in this community, or this state, we're all impacted."

"I don't think anyone is going to know the extent until they actually see it," said Director of Cumberland County Veterans Services, Sharon Sanders.

Across town, staff at Cumberland County Veterans Services is fielding calls from furloughed employees, who are filing disability claims for the first time in their civilian lives. They are unaware the process can take well over a year, and they are looking for emergency funds that don't exist.

"You have these young veterans getting out, who've gotten a job and think everything's going to be okay and all of a sudden, they don't have one and they have young families," said Sanders. "You just want to open your arms and say 'Hey, let me write you a check.' So it's tough to not be able to say I can help you."

The closed door, cross-county meeting between the Chamber of Commerce, United Way and the Department of Defense civilian leadership is expected to produce an action plan by mid-week. They say it's something that will "soften the blow" for those losing such a big chunk of their pay.

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