'A Difficult Slog' For Federal Judiciary
But, he added, the congressional agreement does not solve his long-term funding woes. "For us, the sequester is a bigger problem than the shutdown," he said, "We still have the sequester cuts to deal with under the Budget Control Act for the next several years...
Earlier in the week, he shared his concerns, in spite of the shutdown ending.
"We've already been told we may have to reduce our budgets by 23 percent for fiscal year 2014," said Ward, who became the state's federal public defender last year. "My budget has virtually no discretionary funds."
Even with the shutdown over, his staff faces potential salary cuts. He's already been forced to take their cell phones away. With six lawyers, down from seven last year because of the April retirement of Ronald Resetarits, Ward is concerned that services will be impacted. At the end of the year, another longtime lawyer in the office, Gary Weinberger is retiring. With a hiring freeze in place, the empty spots probably won't be filled.
At the U.S. Attorney's Office, Daly said she, too, is concerned about the sequester cuts, which she said has created a greater "overall impact" than the shutdown.
"We've been under a hiring freeze for three years," she said, "and were also living under the sequestration cuts that have kicked in for fiscal year 2014. We anticipate a number of unpaid furlough days, so that was all in the context under which our employees were living when the shutdown occurred. It's been a difficult slog going forward."
In spite of a financial climate that might be considered "demoralizing" for workers, Daly said her office "managed as well as we possibly could."
Daly said she was forced to furlough about 40 employees during the shutdown, including civil lawyers, support staffers and the office's public information officer. Still, the staff pulled together to get necessary work done.
"We managed as well as we possibly could," she said. "I'm not sure what is gained by all of this, when you have two categories of employees: those who are told they are non-essential and kept home, and those who are kept at work and not paid. We did try a number of things in terms of addressing morale."
For instance, she said, the office tried to rotate schedules of furloughed employees, to limit paycheck impacts as much as possible.