Furloughed NASA workforce faces uncertainty

Updated:

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Thousands of federal and civilian employees with ties to the Kennedy Space Center are wondering when they'll go back to work in Brevard County.

They've been furloughed by the government shutdown.

A number of them are on their first full day of leave without pay.

With the exception of security, among those considered essential during the furlough, most of NASA's workforce has been told to stay at home.

Erik Nason has some extra time on his hands to tackle some projects around the house. But, he'd rather be at work.

"The number of essential personnel has dwindled since the end of the shuttle program. Pretty much everybody was sent home," Nason said.

Nason works for a NASA contractor hired to provide medical and environmental support programs.

That includes rehabilitation services for injured employees whether they were hurt on the job or not.

At the moment that makes Nason non-essential personnel.

"We're rallying together doing the best that we can. We can use our vacation time or leave without pay," Nason said.

Nason's said he's fortunate to have a wife who's at work and a family emergency fund.

"Now the savings that we put away was for emergencies. I don't feel like indecisiveness in D.C. should result in an emergency for myself," Nason said.

It may for many. An estimated 6,000 employees are working for contractors associated with the Kennedy Space Center and nearby Patrick Air Force Base.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has nearly 200 workers at KSC alone.

"Many of these folks don't have enough vacation to cover an extended (furlough) so they'll definitely feel the financial impact on their families," said Dan Raymond of IBEW local 2088.

Depending on how long their furlough lasts, the union will be pushing for back pay.

"Us going home and not getting paid is not a resolution. We need a quick fix and sooner rather than later," Nason said.

Union representatives said many more employees working for contractors at Patrick Air Force Base and cape Canaveral Air Force Station were considered essential than those at KSC.