3,600 local federal lab workers furloughed

BOULDER – About 3,600 federal laboratory workers in Boulder County were placed on furlough Tuesday following the shutdown of the U.S. government Monday night.

The shutdown came after members of the U.S. House and Senate failed to reach a budget-spending agreement.

Of the federal lab employees in Boulder County, about 3,150 are full time, 416 are part timers and students, and 31 are contract workers, according to Meg Collins, managing director of CO-LABS, which stands for Colorado Leveraging Assets for Better Science.

Congress will decide whether furloughed employees will receive pay for the furlough period, according to a document released Monday by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
When area federal labs are closed, it delays critical research, Collins said.

“I think it’s disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful that we’ve gotten to this point,” Collins said about the federal government shutdown. “The longer it goes, the more significant the impact on individuals, and delaying critical research that the labs are involved in.”

Federal labs in Boulder County generated about $743 million in economic impact to the region in fiscal year 2012, according to a report from CO-LABS, a nonprofit group that promotes the state’s 30 federally funded labs and research sites. Boulder County’s federal laboratory workers made $388.3 million in salary in fiscal year 2012, according to the report.

The Business Research Division at the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business conducted the report, titled Colorado Economic Impact Study: Economic and Fiscal Impacts of Federally Funded Research Facilities in Colorado, FY 2011-13.

Federal research labs in Boulder include the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, the National Ecological Observatory Network, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others.

NOAA led the way in state economic impact, providing $277.7 million in impact to Colorado and employing 867 full-time workers in 2012. NIST provided $187.7 million in impact. LASP added $159.3 million, and CIRES provided $111.8 million in economic impact.

Across the country, 800,000 federal workers were furloughed Tuesday. National parks, monuments, museums and federal offices were closed. Air-traffic controllers, including those at a regional center in Longmont, prison guards and Border Patrol agents will remain on the job, although they may not get paid.

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