More workers than originally announced will face reduced work weeks and full furloughs at the Savannah River Site due to sequestration, if financial help does not arrive.
Two work weeks have passed since furloughs began April 1 as a result of sequestration. Managing contractor Savannah River Nuclear Solutions and the Department of Energy have reassessed and altered plans, meaning that more workers are affected, but they have pushed back when full-time furloughs will begin.
“The Savannah River Site has 2,525 contractors on 32-hour workweek furloughs,” said DOE-SR Director of Public Affairs Jim Guisti. “Over 900 of these will go on full-time furlough June 1 for the balance of the year, while the other 1,620 will remain on a 32-hour week through September 30. These furloughs are the result of a variety of budgetary impacts.”
The aim is to push back full-time furloughs as long as possible to wait for other sources of funding.
Originally, a March 5 letter to Gov. Nikki Haley from Daniel Poneman, Deputy Energy Secretary, announced that a $104 million reduction in contractor funds would result in “furloughs or layoffs” of around 2,100 contractors. SRNS laid out a plan of around 2,000 “32-hour workweek furloughs.”
“The larger number ... that allowed us not to have any full-time furloughs, while we try to mitigate the impact. That's what the goal is,” Guisti said. “Whether we are successful or not is yet to be seen.”
The financial lifeline is the reprogramming of millions of dollars from other federal projects to be used at SRS.
Sequestration cost SRS around $100 million, and the reprogramming would return a portion of that. The amount of funds to be reprogrammed has not officially been released, even to representative Joe Wilson, who has requested the information. However, in talking with The Aiken Standard, Sen. Lindsey Graham put the amounts at $80 million.
“I think we are trying to resolve it so we can reduce the impact as much as we can, to the workers,” Guisti said.
Asked about any movement in the reprogramming funds process, Guisti said it would be inappropriate for him to comment directly.
“It requires a number of things to happen in Washington,” he said. Last week, Wilson sent a letter urging for the process to be expedited.