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News Maryland Harford County Aberdeen Havre De Grace

APG loses 60 to 70 percent of workforce during shutdown

The mail centers will be closed this weekend and business has slowed down, as life at Aberdeen Proving Ground adjusts to first few days of the federal government shutdown.

About 30 to 40 percent of the roughly 21,000 to 23,000 people who work on APG are reporting for work, spokesman Kelly Luster said Thursday.

"The installation is still open and operating, but at greatly diminished capacity," Luster said. "Many of the tenant organizations who conduct business on the installation are also operating at reduced levels of personnel in accordance Department of the Army and [Department of Defense] guidance."

Military personnel and some civilian personnel will be paid fully and on time, thanks to the Pay Our Military Act, Luster said.

A host of services, however, have been reduced or halted. They include the Commissary, passport services and the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center (CPAC).

Other services, such as the Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic, the Dental Clinic and Post Exchange, are staying open.

"We've responded to numerous phone calls and emails requesting information regarding these services and are working to keep everyone informed," Luster said. "As our leaders get new guidance and information, we pass it along to our employees through our webpage, Facebook, email and the APG Snow hotline at 410-278-SNOW (7669)."

"We also recommend to everyone traveling to the installation for any reason, to call the organization to determine its current level of operation," he said.

The post's Facebook page has been listing resources for those who have been furloughed.

The commissary was open for a while Tuesday, the first day of the shutdown, to sell off perishable items. The library was open until 2 p.m. that day, then closed until further notice.

Intramural sports and bowling leagues were under review.

The mail centers were going to close for the weekend but re-open on Monday.

"Prior to receiving word the government was shutting down on Oct. 1, we did the most important thing — we communicated to our workforce," Luster said.

"Everyone is still hopeful our leaders in Congress will resolve issues that resulted in the government shutdown allowing the workforce to return," he said. "Services related to life, health and safety continue to operate at levels necessary to ensure the well being of everyone working on APG."

"With an installation of this size and the number of organizations and employees, the effects of a shutdown will have cascading effects with far reaching implications and impacts across the installation as well as throughout the surrounding communities," Luster said.

"For example, the longer the shutdown goes, the more likely individuals and families may end up filing for unemployment. There are programs in place during the previous furlough to help families in true financial duress that are still in place, but those funds are dispersed on a case-by-case basis," he said.

"We recognize the hardship the shutdown places on our workforce and their families and look forward to the resolution of the impasse," he said.

Some businesses near APG said it may be too soon to tell how the government shutdown will impact their clientele. 

Jo Natale, spokesperson for Wegman's, said none of the Wegman's markets near military installations or federal offices have noticed a significant changes in their profits or client base since the government shutdown went into effect.

"It's really too soon to tell," Natale said. "We don't have enough information yet to quantify, maybe we will in the coming weeks, but maybe the shutdown will be over by then."

A contractor in the data collection department for the Army Aberdeen Test Center, Nikki Macomber, 40, has been without work for three days because of the federal government shutdown.

Unlike government personnel, as a contractor, Macomber said she is not eligible for retroactive pay. She said she has enough personal leave time to ensure she is paid through the week, but after that, she'll be left without a paycheck.

"I have a minimal amount of leave pay that may get me through this week," Macomber said. "I used up the bulk of it earlier this year with the furlough and then my mom had some major health issues so I used a lot of it then."

Macomber said she has not heard anything from her direct employer, Jacobs Technology, who she is contracted through. She said she received an e-mail message from Aberdeen Test Center on Tuesday morning informing her not to report to work.

"At first they just told us to watch the news on Monday night and if the government shut down not to report to work," Macomber said. 

In the past few days Macomber said she's been keeping busy around the house, cleaning and cooking meals for her three children. 

"My kids understand what is going on and they know I'm afraid to spend money on anything we don't need," Macomber said. "We haven't been eating out really … I've been trying to conserve food."

Macomber said she has also been looking for part-time and full-time jobs in her free time.

"I've been just looking for anything I could qualify for with comparable pay," Macomber said. "I've been steering away from anything that might be another contract job that could put me in a similar boat."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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