While the budget talks continue at Andrews Air Force Base, federal agencies are generating the millions of pieces of paper required to advise workers that they may be furloughed.
Unless Congress and the White House agree on a budget by Oct. 1, agencies will begin furloughing employees anywhere from one to four days per week. Each furlough day would cost the metropolitan area $70 million in lost government salaries.
Few parts of the federal machine would be untouched by furloughs. Along with cuts and delays in key services, they could also mean a Monday, Wednesday and Friday shutdown for Smithsonian museums and a reduced fall and winter schedule for the Kennedy Center.
By now nearly 2 million federal workers have each received:
A furlough notice.
A detailed memo explaining why the furloughs might occur and how long they might last.
Another memo explaining appeal rights.
Many also received a registered letter that they must sign and return to prove they've been notified.
While the politicians continue to talk about the situation, this is what some of the troops in the federal trenches think about it:
"Everyone's up in the air about a workable federal budget. I have a suggestion for the 'Big Boys' -- now that they are back from their vacations -- and should be getting to work.
"Instead of furloughing the little guys . . . furlough the guys on Capitol Hill. They . . . make the big bucks and would never miss it. They could take it out of that big pay raise they gave themselves.
"If they were furloughed, I guarantee you there would be a balanced budget before the first 22 days went by." Velma Thomas Arlington
"Many federal employees probably feel that the furlough losses . . . will begin Oct. 1 when they get smaller paychecks.
"But I suggest that the losses . . . have already begun and are going on right now.
"From the beginning of the furlough news, government employees have become apprehensive about their future paychecks, their creditors, etc. As a result, their concentration has slipped. I estimate that because of furlough anxiety employees are now working at only 70-75 percent of normal efficiency. This will continue until the situation is resolved.
"So, the loss to the public is a 25 percent reduction in government services received during this period. This is a serious loss which should be reduced and eliminated as soon as possible." Ernest Gruenfeld Rockville
"Please stop saying workers face up to 22 days of furlough. At the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission our notices make it very clear we face 60 days of furlough . . . . Please recognize many government workers are facing a 30 to 50 percent loss of salary." J.R. Washington Furlough Job Fair
The Classification and Compensation Society's furlough luncheon/seminar job fair is Sept. 19 at Blackie's House of Beef. After the seminar, workers will get tips on finding temporary jobs while on furlough. Call 296-1900 for details.