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Simon: Government shutdown hurts military communities

Posted by Admin On October - 2 - 2013

Thousands in defense and military communities facing furloughs

SPRINGFIELD, IL – As chair of the Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee (IMBSEDC), Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon urged Congress to end the stalemate that has resulted in a federal government shutdown. Illinois is home to three military bases that employ thousands of civilian workers who are now facing furloughs, and river cities such as Peoria are facing new risks..

As the battle to end the government shutdown rages on in Washington, the effects are already being felt here in Illinois. The state’s military bases employ military and civilian personnel that are a vital part of the state’s economy and national defense.

“The men and women employed at Illinois’ military installations serve our country and deserve the support of their government,” said Simon. “I encourage members of Congress to think of these families that now worry about putting food on the table, and work toward a meaningful compromise.”

Approximately 2,500 civilian employees at Naval Station Great Lakes, as well as two-thirds of Scott Air Force Base’s 5,000 civilian workers are facing furloughs. At Rock Island Arsenal, around 3,000 civilian employees could be affected.

Throughout the summer, Simon’s office convened listening posts in the Metro East, Quad Cities and North Chicago, all of which neighbor military installations and are already struggling with the economic impact of sequestration and the possibility of future cuts. In order to maximize participation, residents were also able to participate via an online survey, which received hundreds of responses.

The survey and listening posts were administered in partnership with the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA). More than 750 participants answered questions pertaining to business opportunities, education, workforce training and quality of life. Preliminary review of data has shown shared concerns related to the availability of jobs and the quality of education. Simon also heard from business owners who talked about the boost civilian and military personnel give local businesses, support that cannot be counted on now as thousands of workers face being furloughed.

In mid-October, Simon will present the findings to the IMBSEDC. The IMBSEDC coordinates the state’s activities and communications relating to current and former military bases in Illinois, and provides advice and recommendations for base retention, realignment and reuse.

Simon also chairs the Mississippi, Illinois, and Wabash and Ohio River Coordinating Councils, which are charged with reviewing state and federal programs that impact the watersheds and working with local communities to raise awareness of and address watershed issues. As Simon convenes the quarterly meeting of the Illinois Rivers Coordinating Council later today in Peoria, federal Coast Guard reservists and civilian inspectors who work to protect the Illinois River are also being impacted by the furloughs. Officials have said they are coordinating with local law enforcement to ensure continued enforcement along the river.

Simon is encouraging residents to contact their elected officials here to demand an end to the shutdown.

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