FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – With the peak of the 2013 hurricane season approaching, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is urging congress to end National Guard furloughs which started July 8th and are set to continue through September.
Speaking at the Fort Lauderdale Armory, Wasserman Schultz said, “Instead of a natural disaster, we are facing a manmade disaster that’s avoidable.”
Roughly 1,000 Florida National Guard employees are being forced to take one day off a week because of the sequester: mandatory budget cuts to reduce the federal deficit.
It’s resulted in a 20 percent paycut for 1,000 Florida National Guard technicians.
And it means less time for training, equipment maintenance and other activities which help the military unit prepare for the critical roles they play during emergencies, like hurricanes.
Lt. Colonel Marty Nichols is feeling the effects. The father of two says his family has had to take a critical look at their budget.
“It means having to look at my finances. You start to look at gas usage, money spent eating out, coupons, all the things you never had to think about. My daughters are asking me they say, ‘dad, you’ve been in the military 27 years and you’ve spent 20 years as a technician, we’ve never experienced anything like it before.’ It’s hard on everybody.”
Wasserman Schultz said they are no closer to resolving the sequester issue in Washington than when it began in March.
“All we need is for each side to give a little. Democrats have been reaching to the other side of the aisle. We need our colleagues on the other side to come together with us.”
Colonel Valeria Gonzalez Kerr, a Guard Commander in Homestead, said the furloughs will force units to ‘prioritize’ but there will be delays in response during a statewide emergency.
“Some of the equipment may not be ready. We may have to move equipment from North to South Florida or personnel from East to West, so delays would happen, yes.”