June 20, 2018
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Maine National Guard rescinds furlough notices to 570

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine has rescinded notifications of furloughs sent to National Guard members last week, officials said Tuesday.

The Department of Defense informed Maine National Guard leaders last week that mandatory federal budget cuts — the sequester — would mean 22 furlough days for its airmen, soldiers and employees over the next six months.

A total of 570 Maine Guard members were notified about the furloughs last Friday. The notices were quickly rescinded when Guard leaders were notified later in the day that the unpaid time off had been delayed until April 5, Maj. Michael Steinbuchel, spokesman for the Maine National Guard, said Tuesday.

“We had prepared that furlough notice and sent it out early,” he said. “That afternoon the DOD calls up and says, ‘Don’t send it,’ but it was too late. We had already hit the button.”

Maine was one of 21 states to send out notices early, Steinbuchel said. The Associated Press reported that all 21 states are rescinding the notices.

“It’s the prudent thing to do. We don’t want anyone to be surprised,” Steinbuchel said. “There is not a single person affected by this who hasn’t seen it coming, and known it was coming and made preparations.”

The furloughs were delayed when the Senate and House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution to fund the government through September. President Barack Obama signed the measure into law on Tuesday, according to the Huffington Post.

The continuing resolution keeps the sequester cuts in the budget but would allow for more flexibility in the Pentagon.

There are 1,100 Maine Air Guard members and another 2,100 Maine Army National guardsmen. Of those, 570 — known as federal technicians — would be required to take furlough days, according to Steinbuchel.

Those in Maine who may see decreases in pay due to the $85 billion across-the-board federal cuts that took effect March 1 are concerned about their wallets, but “the other impact here in Maine is our readiness posture,” Steinbuchel said.

Given the state’s geographic location, the Maine Army National Guard and Maine Air National Guard units are the country’s first line of defense from threats coming from the east, and they have to be constantly prepared, “so we can respond at a moment’s notice,” Steinbuchel said.

Guard members’ wallets and purses will be significantly lighter if the federal budget furloughs go into effect, Steinbuchel said.

“It’s a 20 percent pay cut,” he said. “We would implement that nonconsecutively so that would be one day a week per paid period through the end of the year.”

BDN reporter Andrew Neff and The Tulsa World contributed to this report

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