WASHINGTON – A shutdown of the federal government would cost Maryland’s economy more than $109 million a week in lost pay and purchases, a federal employees’ union estimated.
The threat of a governmentwide closing has loomed as Congress has struggled unsuccessfully to pass 13 federal spending bills before the start of the new fiscal year Oct. 1.
But a government shutdown on Monday could be averted if President Clinton and Congress enact a temporary spending bill, designed to keep the federal government open for six more weeks.
The House Rules Committee took up the stopgap measure Wednesday. The House and Senate could vote on it as early as Thursday, leadership spokesmen said.
The American Federation of Government Employees held rallies Wednesday in front of Congress and in 30 cities around the country to urge passage of the spending measures.
Morale is “low, real low,” said Ronald L. Melchor of Bowie, an offset pressman at the Government Printing Office who joined several hundred at the Capitol rally.
Disruptions in the salaries of the more than 135,000 civilian federal employees who live in Maryland and the “ripple effects” in the local economy caused by a drop in purchases would cost the state’s economy $109.2 million a week, said AFGE economist Jacqueline Simon.
The calculation is a conservative estimate, Simon said. It does not include federal payments for office leases and purchases, she said.
The District’s economy would lose about $243 million a week, due to lost pay for nearly 223,000 federal employees who live in the city, according to AFGE.
Lost pay for more than 167,000 federal workers in Virginia would cost the state’s economy $135 million a week, according to the union.
Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo, has received a “very steady stream of letters and calls” from worried constituents who work for the federal government, said James Ballentine, an aide to Wynn.
Wynn’s 4th District is home to more federal workers – 72,000 – than any other congressional district in the nation, Ballentine said.
Jockeying over the federal budget only highlights deeper concerns Wynn’s constituents have about federal work force cuts, Ballentine said.
“This is our tire plant,” he said of the government’s importance to the local economy.