BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - If sequestration begins this Friday as many expect, the coast's economy could also take a hit. More than 1,600 civilians work at Keesler Air Force Base, and they could be facing one day a week furloughs starting in April. That equates to a 20 percent pay cut.
Business owners that depend on Keesler are worried about the future. The sound of roast beef sizzling on the grill could be something you won't hear quite as much at Tony Nelson's restaurant. About 80 percent of his business comes from the base.
"That is a concern because of the business we're in, I mean, this is an enjoyment. This is entertainment for them to go out and be able to eat out," Nelson explained. "When people have less disposable income, they'll do like the rest of us, they'll buy groceries and eat at the house."
It's the same story at Pass Road Hardware, a store Russell Bistle has owned for 46 years.
"I don't know that our economy can handle any more hits as it has in the past," Bistle said. "Keesler is very important to Biloxi, Mississippi, not just outside of Gate 7."
At Luckies Furniture, Robyn Lamey was celebrating her birthday Monday. Sequestration is not the present she was looking to receive.
"You're taking about 1,600 people and a 20 percent decrease in their pay, that's their disposable income. That's the reason they can afford to buy from us or any other retail shop," Lamey said.
One of those shops is V.J.' s Auto Parts. Keesler has played a big role in the success of the store, according to owner Keith Polovich.
"We depend on Keesler for the longest time. With the customer base that we have with Keesler, we actually depend on it. It's about 40 to 50 percent of our business," Polovich said.
While most of the business owners I talked to outside of Keesler Gate 7 on Pass Road expressed concerns about sequestration and its impact on their businesses, they also expressed concerns about gridlock in the nation's capital.
"These people in Washington have got to get their act together. It's just imperative that they do," Bistle lamented. "And I do agree that if they don't get a budget and get this thing over with, none of them should be paid either."
Most political experts agree the democrats and republicans are too far apart to reach a compromise agreement before Friday's sequestration deadline.