•Workers often have automatic deductions from paychecks. With furloughs reducing pay, however, workers' paychecks might not be large enough to fully cover all those deductions.
In such cases, the government will prioritize deductions. The deduction for pensions is at the top, followed by deductions for Social Security, Medicare, federal income tax and health insurance.
If the furloughs reduce paychecks to the point that workers can't afford their health insurance, they have a few options, said Gina Lightfoot Walker, federal director of the National Association of Government Employees.
They can terminate coverage or pre-pay premiums now while they still have a bigger paycheck, she said. Or, they can keep coverage and agree to repay any missed premiums later through payroll deductions, she said.
•Furloughed workers will remain covered under insurance plans for life, dental and vision and long-term care, although the OPM says workers must keep up with premiums.
•Workers who become financially strapped during the sequester and need counseling should check out employee assistance programs offered at work. Some agencies' programs offer financial consulting services, the OPM said.
•Workers who contribute a percentage of their pay to the Thrift Savings Plan will see their contributions fall as income drops. But that's not the case for those who contribute a flat dollar amount each pay period. These workers should review whether they want to adjust contributions during the period when their paychecks will be smaller, the retirement plan advised.
•The furlough will not reduce pension benefits, which are determined by a formula using a worker's highest salary over three year period.
It's not just workers who worry about benefits in a furlough.
Most of the 270,000 members of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association are retired, and their top concerns are whether the sequester will stop the flow of their retirement checks or reduce the size of them, said Jessica Klement, the group's legislative director.
Retirees should still receive their checks, Klement said. The sequester should not reduce the sum.
Everett, the AFGE union steward, faces up to 14 days of furlough. He said the pay cut from the furlough comes at a bad time. His 18-year-old daughter will be heading off to her freshman year in college this fall, and the tuition bill will be coming due. The family has already paid a room and board deposit of about $4,000.
He already had planned to be an umpire for Montgomery County Little League this summer, but now the family will need the extra cash, he said.
Everett said today's furloughs remind him of the government shutdown in the mid-1990s, when he was off work for three weeks.
Back then, there was a silver lining. Everett's daughter was 1 at the time, he said, and "I loved spending as much time as I could with her."