By John Frittze, The Baltimore Sun
12:31 PM EST, December 20, 2012
WASHINGTON -- Federal employees will receive an e-mail today alerting them that furloughs are possible if Congress fails to reach an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff, union officials said Thursday.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the human relations arm of the federal government, informed labor leaders of the e-mail in a conference call Wednesday night. Officials stressed that no employment action would likely take place immediately.
Maryland is home to about 300,000 federal workers -- roughly 10 percent of the state's civilian workforce -- and several economists have said that the failure to reach an agreement could have a disproportionate effect in the state.
The conference call was first reported by The Washington Post.
Talking points sent to agencies by the White House stressed that "the administration remains focused on working with Congress to reach an agreement" but that "with only a couple of weeks left before sequestration could occur should a deal not be reached, it is important to clarify the potential implications."
The memo noted that day-to-day operations would not likely change immediately but that "should we have to operate under reduced funding levels for an extended period of time, we may have to consider furloughs or other actions in the future."
The memo came as lawmakers on Capitol Hill continued to wrestle over how to avert the cliff. The House of Representatives is expected to take a series of votes today on bills that would extend tax breaks next year, but that legislation is not expected to advance in the Democrat-led Senate.
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