A small agency known as the Merit Systems Protection Board that processes all federal employees’ furlough appeals has been so overwhelmed thanks to sequestration that it has put off processing most of them until the volume slows down. The flood of appeals hit 13,090 on Thursday and temporarily knocked out its electronic service several times this week.
The majority of the challenges have come from Department of Defense workers, who will experience the bulk of sequestration’s furloughs, and their appeals have been put on hold until after the filing deadline on August 8, when the volume is expected to slow down. Appeals from other agencies will move forward. More than 650,000 civilians working for the DoD started experiencing furloughs in early July, which will amount to a 20 percent pay cut over the next three months.
In total, 775,000 employees can expect furloughs this year in response to the automatic, across-the-board cuts from sequestration that has impacted a variety of agencies. Judges have ruled on 11 furlough appeals so far, one from an employee with the Environmental Protection Agency and 10 from workers at the Federal Aviation Administration. The ruling was upheld for all, which means the workers won’t get back pay.
Sequestration has already had a widespread economic impact in other ways. It continues to drag on economic growth. Experts have predicted a 0.2 percent loss in growth this year thanks to the cuts. But if it were fully cancelled now, growth could be boosted by as much as 1.2 percent, while it could add as many as 1.6 million jobs.