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Delaware senators address Team Dover civilians

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware speaks at a townhall meeting Aug. 8, 2013, at the base theater on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Coons spoke with Team Dover civilian employees about the impact of the furlough on their personal lives. (U.S. Air Force photo/Roland Balik)

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware speaks at a townhall meeting Aug. 8, 2013, at the base theater on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Coons spoke with Team Dover civilian employees about the impact of the furlough on their personal lives. (U.S. Air Force photo/Roland Balik)

Bonnie Knox, 436th Medical Group commander?s secretary, speaks to U.S. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware at a townhall meeting Aug. 8, 2013 at the base theater on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Knox told Coons that the current sequester and furloughs disappoint her. (U.S. Air Force photo/Roland Balik)

Bonnie Knox, 436th Medical Group commander's secretary, speaks to U.S. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware at a townhall meeting Aug. 8, 2013 at the base theater on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Knox told Coons that the current sequester and furloughs disappoint her. (U.S. Air Force photo/Roland Balik)

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware addresses the crowd at a townhall meeting Aug. 8, 2013, at the base theater on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Carper spoke to Team Dover civilian employees for an hour and a half about the recent sequester and furloughs. (U.S. Air Force photo/Roland Balik)

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware addresses the crowd at a townhall meeting Aug. 8, 2013, at the base theater on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Carper spoke to Team Dover civilian employees for an hour and a half about the recent sequester and furloughs. (U.S. Air Force photo/Roland Balik)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, both of Delaware, came to Team Dover to address and answer questions civilian employees might have concerning the recent furloughs Aug. 8, at the base theater here.

Furloughs for government employees went into effect on July 8. Originally scheduled for 22 days, the Department of Defense recently lowered the amount to six non-paid days. The town hall meeting allowed Team Dover government employees a chance to voice their concerns to government leaders.

Sen. Coons told the employees that he personally was sorry for the sequester.

"I have gotten a lot of letters and I want you to know that I have read every single letter," Coons said. "I know my answers have not all been satisfactory. Unfortunately, our government is at an impasse. At the end of the day, the sequester was a mechanism that didn't work. It's never going to be across the board and fair."

Eleven of the employees in attendance had the opportunity to ask questions of the senators during the address. Patricia Baranyai, 436th Airlift Wing command post operations assistant, told the senators how the sequester is affecting her job. As an employee with a security clearance, she told them how she can't afford to get even a little behind in her bills.

"I'm in a catch-22 because if I can't pay my bills then I can't keep my clearance," Baranyai said. "It is impossible for me to pay my bills in this economy having to give up $200 per pay period. This is clearly affecting my ability to perform my mission."

Both senators said that furloughs have been bad policy. Carper said the problem exists because of an unwillingness among some in Congress to compromise.

"The senate passed a budget and we did it cutting half from spending and half on raising revenues," Carper said. "The house did it all on the spending side. When I was governor of Delaware we had a balanced budget eight years in a row. We need to find a way to work across the aisle to put in place a balanced comprehensive reduction package."

Coons said Congress has a major incentive to end the sequester and pass a balanced budget that would stop the possibility for future furloughs in the future.

"This is causing very real damage to families, and it reduces the training and readiness of our armed forces," Coons said. "What I find puzzling is that a lot of members of Congress don't seem as motivated to solve this issue. Maybe they are not hearing or not listening to the same input that we've been getting from our constituents. All the mail and e-mails that I have received tell me that our constituents want us to try to compromise to get a budget passed."


Many of the attendees were upset and wanted more Congressional involvement. Jennifer Vallee, 436th Airlift Public Affairs chief of community relations, offered a summary of the attendees' thoughts.

"Congress needs to do its job," Vallee said. "They need to take the initiative and actually fix the problem. They basically washed their hands of this issue when they passed it off to governmental department heads to find cuts. They need to take it back and fix this problem the right way."