Most civilian employees will complete their last and sixth furlough day Friday at Fort Benning as part of federal budget cuts announced by the secretary of defense.
Completing the six furlough days ends a string of four-day work weeks which started on July 8. About 4,000 civilians employees had faced 11 days of furloughs when the reduced work weeks started, but Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel slashed the furloughs on Aug. 6.
The end means that many services on post will return to normal hours on Monday, including the Fort Benning Commissary and many services at Martin Army Community Hospital.
People are happy that its over, said Gary Jones, director of public affairs at Fort Benning. It will be good to get back to our normal pay. I know that has been challenging on folks.
Employees on furloughs were losing 16 hours in salary for every bi-weekly pay period, costing workers $400 to $700 a month. It accounted for 20 percent of each employees during the pay period.
Percentage wise, we were all hit the same, Jones said. If you happen to be a young single parent, 20 percent will hit you a little harder than if you are a more senior person.
Most employees took their furloughs on Mondays and Fridays. For employees who didnt take furloughs on those days, Jones said a few likely will take their last day on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday next week.
Beginning Monday, the commissary will reopen on that day after being closed due to budget cuts.
Terry Beckwith, chief of public affairs at Martin Army Community Hospital, said all patient medical homes will resume operations 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The North Columbus Medical Home which had closed on Fridays at Brookstone Centre will treat family members beginning at 8:30 a.m.
Starting on Monday, we will go back to normal operating hous in the family medical home here at the hospital, Beckwith said. Patients also should find it easier to get an appointment for treatment.
Beckwith said Friday would be the last furlough day for most employees at the hospital. There are some who may take the day on Monday and Tuesday.
Beckwith is among employees who will be returning on Monday for a full week since early July. Reducing a day every week cut back 20 percent of health care service.
We are absolutely delighted to come back to work 40 hours a week, she said. Missing that day of work made it hard on the other four days to play catch up, plus we want to see our patients.
Furloughs originally had to be completed by Sept. 30, the end of the 2013 fiscal year. That changed after the days were cut from 11 to six. The last reduction in furloughs was enough to give teachers on 10-month contacts a total reprieve from five furlough days.
More cuts could follow in the fiscal 2014 budget year starting Oct. 1 if Congress is unable to approve a budget that reduces part or all of an additional $52 billion in cuts.