With about a week and a half to go in the negotiations to reach a debt ceiling and spending bill before the government risks an unprecedented default, federal workers are understandably uneasy. Jacqueline Simon, Policy Director of the American Federation of Government Employees spoke with Local 4 News via Zoom to discuss the ramifications of a potential default.

“I think default is one scenario that we can all worry about,” said Simon. “The other scenario that we should be paying close attention to is the terms of any kind of deal that might be struck on the budget, which is separate from whether or not the government should default or will default. The spending caps that have been in the news as potential parts of a budget deal are really troubling, and they would be very, very hard on the civilian employees at Rock Island Arsenal.”

Any potential spending caps will directly affect employees. “There will be job loss if these spending caps go into effect, there will be pressure to freeze pay, pressure on benefits,” said Simon. “Right now, as everyone knows, there’s a gray and sort of generational turnover as the Baby Boomers all reach retirement age. The government has been having a hard time recruiting and retaining the next generation, and with budget pressures from spending caps, that challenge will just be made more and more difficult.”

If the government does go into default, it may find itself in a financial situation familiar to many families, paying bills only on days when there’s enough income. “If there is a default, and if the House Republicans are so intransigent that they will not allow the debt ceiling to be raised to pay for legislation that they’ve already voted for and passed, then I think we’ll see impacts immediately. We’ll see impacts on June 1st. There’s a fluctuation in the revenues that come in on any given day and the expenditures that are made on any given day. I’ve seen lots of charts that show June 1 is a very bad day, June 2 is a better day, June 3 is another bad day, it goes up and down. So, on any given day, they could pay all their bills with the revenue coming in, but then there are days and months where there are few new revenues and lots of bills for Medicare or something like big balloon bills. It’s really kind of a day-to-day thing. The answer really is, we’ve never been here before so we don’t know what it’ll be like – it’ll be chaos, I can tell you that much.”

Simon hopes none of these worst-case scenarios occur and they’re taking steps to make sure it doesn’t. “We hope that a deal is not going to happen that places spending caps. We’re lobbying the administration and Congress, urging our supporters not to sign on to any kind of deal that imposes spending caps. In the long run, the spending caps are absolutely as devastating, if not more devastating to federal government agencies and the operation of government than this ceiling crisis.”

Residents can contact their members of Congress to voice their concerns about the budget, according to Simon. “They absolutely should contact their members of Congress and say, ‘we’ve seen austerity budgets before, cutbacks on government services, cutbacks on government operations, attempts to try to create chaos within the government and we don’t need it we don’t want it, don’t vote for any kind of deal that plays a spending caps and ties the hands of government and Congress for the next several years.”