Business owners like Alan Brown are bracing for what federal budget cutbacks could do to Liberty County's economy. Furloughs for civilian employees at Fort Stewart could leave them with less money in their paychecks and that strain would be passed onto the local market.
"We're always worried when we hear about this stuff because the numbers are so huge," said Brown, a local realtor. "We have resigned ourselves to hope it won't be as bad as it could be."
Fort Stewart, its soldiers and staff have an economic impact of $5 billion per year. But under the cuts brought by sequestration, civilian employees would be furloughed 22 days over the rest of the fiscal year. That would mean roughly one day per week.
Colonel Kevin Gregory, garrison commander for Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, told those attending a Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday that they have been ordered to construct a plan if a budget compromise is not reached by April 22.
Gregory said the plan would protect services to soldiers and families as much as possible.
"We would maintain those services as much as possible. However, we might not have the grass around post mowed every week. At the hospital, it might take longer to get a call answered on the phone because a percentage of staff could be furloughed at any given time," he explained.
Colonel Gregory also noted the cuts would not impact troops currently deployed. However, it could affect the training of brigades currently training to deploy. Meanwhile, they have implemented a hiring freeze on vacant civilian positions and they've cut back on some non-emergency building maintenance.
Many gathered at the meeting voiced a hope that a compromise in Congress would find cuts in federal spending without impacting the local military or local economy.