U.S. furloughs could start in a month

March 2, 2013 at 2:19 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 2 (UPI) -- U.S. government agencies that employ a lot of people directly are likely to be affected first by across-the-board budget cuts, officials say.

That means everything from fewer meat inspectors to fewer rangers in national parks, The Washington Post reported Friday. The effects will be felt more slowly with agencies that spend much of their budgets on grants.

The automatic cuts, 5.1 percent or $85 billion, kicked in when Congress and President Obama failed to agree on a budget deal March 1, Friday.

Brian Mabry, a spokesman for the Food Safety and Inspection Service, said most of the agency's 10,000 employees will be furloughed for 15 days if the cuts are not stopped. About 87 percent of the agency's budget goes to salaries.

"We can't just stop programs," Mabry said. "People are saying, 'Why can't you just send home all the personnel people and not the inspectors?' Well, there's no way to get from here to there without that."

Janet Riley, a senior vice president at the American Meat Institute, said all meat that goes to market will still be inspected. But with fewer inspectors, less meat will make its way to supermarket refrigerators and prices are likely to rise. Meat-packing employees could also get time off as plants close down one or two days a week.

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