"Instead of being spread over a year, we're looking at a 20 percent pay cut over a short period of time," he said. "It creates an economic difficulty."
In his case, he said, the immediate challenge is the tuition bill for his son, an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
"He's studying abroad right now, so it's not like he's making any money this summer," he said. "And in August, he goes back to school on the George Matthews Scholarship Plan."
Economist Anirban Basu said the statewide economic impact of sequestration has been difficult to assess because cuts have been phased in over time and the economy has slowly improved despite the reductions.
"To date, the impacts of sequestration are hardly visible in the data," said Basu, head of Sage Policy Group, a Baltimore economic and policy consulting firm.
But when it comes to the furloughs and other expected future reductions, he added, "all of our models would suggest that this would have a pretty significant impact on the local economy."
Sequestration is the result of the messy 2011 agreement to raise the nation's debt ceiling — the amount of money Congress allows the administration to borrow.
In return for raising the limit, lawmakers scheduled budget cuts that were designed to be so painful that Republicans and Democrats would agree to a deficit-reduction deal to avoid them.
But that never happened.
Congress has tweaked some of the more onerous restrictions — giving more flexibility to the Department of Transportation to avoid furloughs of air traffic controllers, for instance. The Pentagon initially contemplated 22 furlough days, but Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in May that the number would be cut in half.
There is little indication lawmakers will undo the cuts in the next fiscal year. Democrats, led by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, are pushing to erase the cuts as they craft next year's spending bills.
But many Republicans view the cuts as a critical tool in reducing budget deficits.
Lawmakers may have to consider raising the debt ceiling again this year.
The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund, a nonprofit created in 1986 to help federal employees through natural disasters and personal emergencies, is expecting a spike in requests for assistance this month. The organization has so far made 106 loans to families hit hardest by furloughs, said Robyn Kehoe, director of field operations.
The group has made loans worth $5,900 in Maryland, she said.
For John Statham, a 44-year-old biomedical technician at Aberdeen, the pay cut won't be dire — though Statham believes tax withholding will pull his actual check down by more than 20 percent.
The Halethorpe man, also an NFFE steward, said he anticipated the cuts a long time ago and made adjustments such as paying off his car loan rather than going out to dinner. Statham said he is concerned, though, about younger employees who were unable to make those choices.
"I was trying to get the jump on this," he said. "When I actually start getting those lower checks — when they do come — I'm going to be able to cover my bills."
Matthews says sequestration and furloughs have also taken another kind of toll. Family and friends who know he works for the Defense Department keep asking how he has been affected, and he's grown tired of talking about it.
"When you've been involved in a car crash, the thing you want to have happen is for the whole thing to go away," he said. "After you tell that story a couple of times, you say, 'Hey, guys, I've had enough.'
"I don't want to tell it over and over."