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Furloughs loom for INL

With the government shutdown going into Week 2, the Department of Energy is declining to confirm how many Idaho National Laboratory employees will be furloughed.

Viewers with connections to the site have told Local News 8 the furlough orders could come as soon as Thursday.

More than a week ago, the DOE confirmed there was only enough money to last a couple of weeks. And in a news release, the department said it would be forced to furlough more than half of its employees. The department did not give an exact date to when or even if the INL furloughs will happen.

INL workers account for a big percentage of eastern Idaho’s workforce. If they were furloughed it could have major impacts on local businesses.

Owner of the Pittmaster BarBQue Company, Rob Harding, said his restaurant sees most of its business during lunchtime and a majority of his customers are from the INL.

The restaurant opened in Idaho Falls in April of 2013. It is located fairly close to the INL campus site in Idaho Falls.

“With the announcements coming down today or tomorrow, I’m sure it is going to slow down even more, which is too bad for a brand new business that is trying to get going,” said Harding.

He said he is always thinking about how to cut down costs.

“When volume is down then yeah, we might have to cut at least the position for that day. We won’t cut employees,” Harding said.

Local store owner Lyn Pletscher has been preparing for an event similar to the government shutdown.

“We have been planning the what ifs and scaling our business to that what if, and sounds like it is here,” Pletscher said.

She, too, worries about the impact.

“It does make us concerned about the fourth quarter and the poor families that are being effected. It is never good news going into the holiday season,” she said.

The Department of Labor said the INL employed about 25 percent of people in eastern Idaho in 2010. CEO of Grow Idaho Falls Inc., Linda Martin, agrees this impact would be felt.

“When you’re talking about a big player and the marketplace, there will be an effect. I don’t think there is any way to get around it,” Martin said. Martin hopes agriculture and tourism can keep the economy going if the INL furloughs were to happen.

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