MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - National Weather Service employees are sweating, but not because of the heat. Potential furloughs are in store for the agency if it cannot find $36 million to cover its budget deficit. The agency could furlough 5,000 employees for 13 days between July and September.
The National Weather Service staffs 122 forecast offices across the country. Labor costs to run them amount to $2 million a day. The agency may not be able to pay its employees through the end of the fiscal year unless Congress and NOAA can cover the deficit.
Scott Smullen, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, issued this comment:
The Administration submitted this reprogramming specifically to avoid any risk to weather services and we are working to protect this critical service. The fact sheet is not a formal trigger of the furlough process. It merely describes the situation and potential impacts if the reprogramming was not submitted to Congress. Out of an abundance of transparency, we shared the document with the union. NOAA is committed to doing everything within its authority to avoid furloughs, and our focus will remain on maintaining the critical operations and services we need to successfully perform our mission. Congress has shown great leadership in their historical and ongoing support for the National Weather Service and we will continue to work with them and answer any and all questions about how to move forward together.
Furloughs would reduce staff at weather offices or cause some to close altogether during the time of year when hurricanes, tornadoes, extreme heat and forest fires are common. Without staffed weather offices, people won’t get timely and accurate information about dangerous weather. If weather offices were forced to close, neighboring offices would have to cover adjacent areas during inclement weather.
“Why is the National Weather Service trying to furlough the employees who are working to save lives and not the contractors? $129 million a year of the budget goes to contractors, some who just create power points and pie charts,” said Bill Hopkins, Vice President of the National Weather Service Employees Organization. “Not only are employees going to suffer but they're jeopardizing the public safety of everyone in this country.”
The National Weather Service Employees Organization is hopeful that an agreement will be made in order to keep weather services open.
There is still a lot of discussion of whether the furloughs will really happen. If they do, all weather offices will be affected, including the National Weather Service in Memphis.