BREMERTON — Only essential operations at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard will continue during the federal government shutdown, and that means thousands of people in Western Washington are being furloughed.
Business owners in Bremerton say they’re also going to take a hit.
Don Stauff stayed busy, getting ready for the lunch rush Tuesday. But he doesn’t know what the crowd will be like Wednesday — 60 percent of his business comes from people who work at the shipyard. Come Wednesday, many of them will be staying home.
“I’ve got to cut back on what I’m preparing, that’s for sure,” Stauff said. “A lot of the guys telling me today they’re just getting their notices for furloughs.”
The Navy confirmed furlough notices went out to 3,500 civilian employees Tuesday. They were on what’s considered non-essential operations, so they’ll be without a job and a paycheck until Congress takes action.
“These are human beings; these are people’s lives,” business owner Todd Best said. “Our economy depends on these people having a wage.”
Best, a veteran, says the Navy can’t operate without its civilian workers.
“We’ve got to remember who’s here fixing our ships, running our shipyard, who’s maintaining our military apparatus and ships that we have,” he said. “At some point or another, we’re going to pay the price. We’re going to play catch-up because we’re falling behind now.”
Stauff said it’s already been a tough year. His business went down about 40 percent in the summer when the federal sequestration budget cuts took effect.
“If you got a guy making $20-$30 an hour and he loses all his overtime that he’s used to getting, there goes his mortgage,” he said. “He’s not going to go out to eat if he can’t afford it anymore.”
Things could be much worse if these furloughs last a while, and Stauff hopes Congress can get it together.
“I don’t think they should get paid. Let them go without pay for a month or two, see what it’s like.”
A public affairs official said 7,400 people at the shipyard are “excepted,” so operations on the USS John C. Stennis, USS Kentucky and USS Jimmy Carter will continue. Operations on the USS Connecticut are being put on hold.