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The Mountaineer Online



Services, support agencies stand ready to assist civilian employees during furlough


Michelle Kennedy

Staff Writer

With the furlough beginning next week, Fort Drum civilian employees who could be facing insurmountable financial or emotional challenges should rest assured they are not alone or without hope. Whether a person is facing financial insecurity or trouble coping with other stressors a furlough may yield, there are agencies available to help.

Roughly 1,800 Fort Drum civilians will face up to 11 days of unpaid leave beginning next week through the end of the fiscal year in September.

Civilians were first notified of the possible furlough in March, in which employees affected will see a 20-percent pay reduction. Since then, Fort Drum leaders have been proactive in informing employees of the ever-changing situation in an attempt to provide some predictability.

“Over the last three months, our mission has been to stay in front of the situation, allowing civilian employees the time to plan and prepare,” said Col. Gary A. Rosenberg, Fort Drum garrison commander. “We all know that the furlough will affect almost everything on Fort Drum, but we must remember that our great civilians will bear the heaviest burden. The civilian workforce has been doing ‘more with less,’ yet their dedication to their mission hasn’t wavered. They work hard to take care of the Families and ensure the Soldiers who live and work on Fort Drum have what they need to train, deploy and defend our nation. Because of this, it is critical that we take care of our civilian employees, too. There are services and agencies available to assist them during this difficult time.”


Financial assistance

Even with months to prepare for a possible furlough, a loss of income due to furlough will likely still cause financial strain for many.

“Twenty percent is a lot of income,” said Judee Kelly, Financial Readiness Program manager and accredited financial counselor.

The Financial Readiness Program is one of several services that can help civilian employees during the furlough. FAP’s team of accredited financial counselors can help individuals with budgeting, restructuring debt, building savings and setting goals.

Before making an appointment, Kelly recommends people track their spending and write down everything they buy for a minimum of two weeks before FAP counselors create a budget.

“Find out where you spend every single penny; don’t guess,” she said. “If (people don’t) know what they’re spending, I can’t help them create a realistic budget.”

If people still have a deficit in their money after creating a budget, FAP counselors can help individuals restructure their debit by calling creditors and asking for minimum payment requirements, payment deferrals or interest-rate reductions.

Once their finances are back on track, they should continue following their budget and begin building or rebuilding their savings and hold off on any large unnecessary purchases, Kelly noted. If feasible, building savings can come in handy if they are faced with an unexpected expense.

FRP has a lending library of books and DVDs to help individuals. Because no one person is the same, counselors look at each client individually to create a personalized plan. To make an appointment, call 772-5196.

The Employment Readiness Program has teamed up with a local employment agency to offer temporary jobs for civilians affected by the furlough. For information, call 772-9611.

However, there are regulations regarding civilians and part-time work – federal employees are not allowed to work for government contractors or work in federally owned buildings on furlough days. It is recommended that government employees who are considering a part-time job during the furlough call the Staff Judge Advocate at 772-6371 for any ethical concerns.

Army Emergency Relief may be an option for civilian employees who are married to active-duty or retired service members. AER can provide interest-free loans and grants for unexpected financial burdens – travel expenses for the death of a family member; car or home repairs; emergency funds for rent, food, medical or dental expenses; and more.

The Federal Employee Education Assistance Fund also can provide similar financial assistance to civilian employees. FEEA can assist individuals during unforeseen financial hardships. Payments are made directly to creditors, and employees repay through small, no-interest payroll deductions. Employees may apply for assistance at www.feea.org.

 

Emotional support

Fort Drum’s Master Resilience Training offer workshops for Soldiers, Family Members and civilians to help improve their ability to face life’s everyday and unexpected challenges.

“Resilience is an ongoing process,” said Jennifer Eichner, Mobilization and Deployment program manager and master resilience trainer. “It is not a destination or a state of mind. It requires a self-awareness that leads to action.

“We all face adversity every day, be it small or large,” she continued. “What your personal resilience factor prepares you to do is to bounce back and continue to keep an optimistic outlook.”

The upcoming furlough is an adversity that requires resilience on many levels, Eichner added. Being able to “bounce back” will require civilians to be self-aware, practice self-regulation, stay mentally flexible, rely on and build strong connections, recognize their strengths and most importantly, look for the positive things in everyday life.

“The stronger (civilians) are – in terms of resilience – the stronger the mission and the stronger the post functions,” Eichner said. “If a civilian employee is physically and mentally happy in his or her everyday life, then they bring that to work with them.

“Most people spend more time at work than they do at home,” she continued. “If we can bring that positive attitude and share our own hope and optimism at work, it makes it a better place.”

The furlough is not something civilian employees can control, so it is important for them to focus on things they can control, Eichner added.

“Set some goals and work hard to feel the satisfaction of reaching those goals,” she said. “Hunt the good stuff daily and remember that each day will not be perfect, but each day does have purpose.”

Eichner and her team of trainers will offer “Thrive Through the Furlough” sessions designed specifically for civilian employees. Classes will be offered at 9:30 a.m. July 23, Aug. 20 and Sept. 12. For more information or to sign up, may call 772-0470 / 2848 / 0509.

The Employee Assistance Program is a service that can assist federal employees in the confidential treatment of all mental health issues that can affect job performance, such as substance abuse, Family and marital concerns, financial stress, workplace conflicts and other mental health-related issues. EAP also can provide short-term counseling and referral services to organizations like the Army Substance Abuse Program to help employees achieve a balance between their work and personal responsibilities.

For those who need additional emotional support, Military Family Life Consultants can provide confidential, solution-oriented counseling to individuals, Families, couples and groups. MFLCs can assist active-duty and reserve-component Soldiers, Family Members and civilian employees. They are located at Army Community Service. For an appointment, call 212-6919.

Financial problems can lead to anger and stress. The Family Advocacy Program provides workshops and individualized training to individuals who need anger or stress management support. For more information, call 772-6929.

 

Furlough support services

* Army Emergency Relief – 772-6560 / 2855

* Army Substance Abuse Program – 772-6704

* Employee Assistance Program – 772-2597

* Family Advocacy Program – 772-6929

* Federal Employee Education Assistance Fund – 1-800-323-4140 or www.feea.org

* Financial Readiness Program – 772-5196 / 772-2919

* Master Resilience Training – 772-0470 / 2848

* Military Family Life Consultants – 212-6919





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