Businesses nervous over threat of furloughs at Keesler AFB

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Keesler officials told WLOX News about 1,052 civilian employees at the base could face furloughs if the government shuts down after midnight. Those affected would still report to work Tuesday to sign some paperwork, then go home. The news has a lot of nearby business owners worried.

Marian Burdine was wondering what will happen when she returns to work at the Seabee Base on Tuesday. As a Transportation Assistant, Burdine has been looking forward to working her full hours again.

"I just got off furlough from July to September for one day a week for six weeks in a row, and I ended up losing 30-percent of my paycheck during that time frame. I just refinanced my house because of the furlough," said Burdine.

Burdine faced the threat of another furlough, with the government on the verge of a shutdown Monday night.

"It's devastating and it'll hurt me since I'm a widow," said Burdine.

The owner of the Burger Burger Restaurant is also worried about the impact of another furlough. She said business has been slow since the last unpaid furloughs due to sequestration took effect in July. Her restaurant is located just a few blocks from Keesler Air Force Base.

"If it continues like that and it continues to take people and take the money away from them and they have to decide whether to go out to eat or pay their bills, it's going to affect us. It really will," said Martha Ebberman. "We really depend on the military and the people that work out of Keesler."

Keesler was the main reason Danielle Emery opened the Wing Zone right by the Air Force base ten years ago. She said furloughs would be a big blow to her budget, since about 80-percent of her business comes from Keesler.

"It would be significant. We would definitely feel the pain. That would affect our employees here. Probably not layoffs, but definitely cut hours," said Emery.

That's why so many people were anxiously waiting for Congress to reach a budget compromise.

"I'm hoping the parties resolve this, so we can go to work and get our regular paycheck," said Burdine.

"I'm just crossing my fingers and hope for the best. I mean we've taken beatings from hurricanes before and been without work for awhile, and this will be another small struggle. Hopefully, we can get through it as fast as possible," said Emery.

"We've had Katrina, we had oil spill, then we had the economy. Then we had the furloughs and now we've got this to deal with. It's amazing how you can make it through that stuff," said Ebberman.

A spokesman for the Seabee Base in Gulfport said a government shutdown would affect between 20 to 40 percent of the base's 550 government service employees.

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