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Federal workers brace for furloughs

Published: Saturday, March 9, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

WASHINGTON – First there was a two-year pay freeze. Now furloughs loom, as federal agencies make personnel costs a prime target for across-the-board budget cuts that went into effect last week.

The result: anxiety and low morale in a workforce often envied for its job security.

“It would certainly put a strain on things,” said Jonathan Schweizer, 61, an environmental engineer at the Environmental Protection Agency in Chicago who could be forced to take up to 13 days of unpaid leave this year. “I’d probably have to run up some credit card debt or defer maintenance on my home that I’d otherwise consider important.”

Government agencies vary widely in how they are dealing with the “sequester,” as the automatic cuts are called, according to labor unions that represent federal workers.

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