Furloughs Hit Oklahoma National Guard Members Amid Government Shutdown

Thursday, October 3rd 2013, 6:08 pm
By: News On 6

Some lawmakers are trying to pass bills to reopen agencies one at a time and today, they're also pushing to find a way to pay National Guard troops.

Nearly 10,000 men and women in the Oklahoma National Guard won't be able to train, and because of that, they won't get paid until there's a solution regarding the government shutdown.

Donnie Eldridge is one of 125 federal technicians in the Tulsa area who is currently without work.

He said this isn't the first time he's been unemployed because the government can't come to an agreement.

"I can't believe this is happening again," Eldridge said.

This summer, he saw a dip in pay due to automatic budget cuts in Washington.

He was also furloughed in 1995 and ‘96 when a similar government shutdown happened.

"The same thing, go in on a Monday and they say, ‘Sorry. Go home,'" Eldridge said.

Eldridge joins more than 700 federal technicians in Oklahoma who are currently without paychecks.

The mechanic and flight instructor says he could be furloughed up to 21 days or even longer.

"It hits the family the hardest," he said.

"As a father, that's what keeps me awake at night, is worrying about something that I'm not going to be able to provide for the kids," Eldridge said.

Statewide, there are roughly 9,700 U.S. Army and Air National Guard members.

Although the majority aren't furloughed, if they go a month without training and pay, that would be close to a $2 million impact.

For the hundreds of federal technicians who are furloughed, the impact would be $186,000 per day.

"You kinda see this trickle-down effect that before too long it will be really noticeable to the public."

Eldridge says the Guard has to be ready at a moment's notice to respond to natural disasters like grass fires and tornadoes.

He said the furloughs could delay response times in emergencies, along with the training and maintenance they perform on aircraft year-round.

"The public doesn't always see what we're doing, but we're always getting ready for something," Eldridge said.

He's optimistic that he could receive back pay like he did last time.

He says until then, he and his fellow federal technicians will look for part-time work to fill the void.

Eldridge says he and others were told they could file for unemployment.

He said even if the government comes to a resolution soon, they still could face potential furloughs over the next five years because of budget cuts.

"It's sad that we've come to a day and age where the government is no longer steady employment," he said. "If it's truly one nation under God indivisible, that's how it needs to be when it comes time to pay the bill."