TAMPA, Fla., Oct. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Tampa Bay Defense Alliance distributed the following letter to members of the Tampa Bay area Congressional delegation asking them to set aside their personal differences and resolve the Government Shutdown before it has a dramatic impact on our military community and MacDill Air Force Base.
Alliance president John Schueler said his members felt the immediate need to express strong vocal opposition to the legislative roadblock in Washington. "The letter reflects the collective voice of the Alliance members," he added.
Schueler also noted that the Alliance was quickly able to garner the support of financial institutions and utilities throughout the Tampa Bay eight-county region to provide an economic bridge to support the military community during the Shutdown. Called "Operation Embrace," he said the Alliance was overwhelmed with the immediate willingness of these businesses to support the local military members and their families.
The letter was sent to Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, and Representatives Kathy Castor, Bill Young, Dennis Ross, Gus Bilirakis, Tom Rooney and Vern Buchanan.
The letter follows.
October 6, 2013
GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN - Embracing Tampa Bay's Military Community
On behalf of our Tampa Bay Community -- the Tampa Bay Defense Alliance (TBDA), the Tampa Bay Partnership, our Chambers of Commerce, our Economic Development Corporations (EDCs) and our Military Support Organizations (NDIA, United Way & more), we must champion an end to the devastating and unpredictable Government inaction, which has led to the current Shutdown!
We call for the finger pointing to stop . . . for leadership to look out the window at what's happening in the real world . . . to work together . . . and for Congress and our President to embrace our military and our nation.
This Shutdown is the latest in a long series of constraining measures imposed on our military and defense community. Years of Continuing Resolutions (CRs), defense budget cuts, the addition of Sequestration, the scars of furloughs, an uncertain future darkened by unpredictability will impact future readiness, devastate morale, and stop economic development. The effects of these consequences could very well jeopardize our national security and ultimately the freedoms we cherish.
Foremost in our hearts are our people! Our entire military community, encompassing our active duty military, National Guard and Reserve Forces, as well as our civilians and retired veterans and their families, are precious. While being recalled to work -- for now -- the stress, financial strains and ever present uncertainty have and are taking a tremendous toll. Fold in our Defense 'small businesses' who are facing the prospects of bankruptcy due to contract suspensions, scope of work reductions, termination of contracts, and rate reductions -- our Tampa Bay Defense Community is shaken and fractured.
The compounding impacts of these budget crises here in Tampa Bay are cataclysmic; no doubt emblematic across the State of Florida and our Nation. Closures, curtailments and suspension of services all burden and demoralize the people we depend upon to serve and protect us, we should not underestimate the human toll.
Of the 2,000 civilian employees at MacDill Air Force Base, 1,500 have been furloughed with lost salaries totaling $400,000 per day. As a legacy of cumulative cost reduction measures, many of these families were already living from paycheck to paycheck. The impacts of 6 previous furlough days, added to the financial stress of making payments for mortgages, car loans, gas and credit cards, is driving them to the breaking point. Consider the impact on an individual military member's "credit rating" when a car payment or mortgage is missed. The Shutdown has closed the Commissary increasing the cost of necessities, such as food, by 25%! Guard and Reserve members are not being paid, Guard and Reserve UTAs (Unit Training Assemblies) are being cancelled, training deferred, and even military members in personal education courses are being warned to consider "withdrawing from courses" because tuition assistance is unlikely to be paid!
On the business front, since 1 October, approximately $9M in contracts have been delayed or face termination . . . with the possibility of a further $20M of contracts in question.
Contract administration is grinding to a halt, furloughing of auditors to process invoices, security clearances not being processed; we are facing a breakdown of the entire support apparatus that enables small businesses to provide critical services and products to our defense community.
Some individuals and businesses may never recover!
The Tampa Bay Community
In response to the Government Shutdown, our Tampa Bay Defense Community is rallying to support our military families and our small businesses. Joining together in "Operation Embrace," we are committed to creating an "Economic Bridge" of options and practical relief for those in our military and defense businesses who are suffering hardship due to the cumulative impacts of furloughs and the Shutdown.
Operation Embrace is an historic coming together of our region of 8 counties . . . the first phase of building our Economic Bridge will focus on, Finance and Utilities. Senior leaders representing banking and power companies have all pledged to help mitigate the pressures of these budget crises.
The response from our community has been positively overwhelming. This week you will see the launch of a Tampa Bay regional web network; a one-stop, responsive portal, dedicated to providing support information and relief services from the region's financial firms and utility companies. In parallel, our Chambers of Commerce are launching a complementary website listing additional support, including reduced rates and customized specials for military families, courtesy of our restaurant partners.
Representative support services offered by Tampa Bay's banks and credit unions include:
-- Immediate cash needs -- Reduced rates and/or credit extensions -- Bridge loans -- Mortgage relief -- Credit card relief -- Forgiveness of fees (late fees, overdraft) -- Skip a payment
Congressional Leadership . . . Embrace Constructive Resolution
Work together in the best interests of our country . . . and Embrace our Military.
Tampa Bay is 'embracing' its defense community . . . Now we need our Congressional Leadership to rise up and demonstrate a greater willingness to understand and respond to the collateral damage being caused to our military infrastructures and readiness. We need you to recognize the pain that has been inflicted on families, particularly our civilian military personnel.
Security, our freedom and the welfare of our military families is paramount . . . Please end this embarrassing and increasingly damaging impasse and put our Government back to work!
Operation Embrace is our covenant to uphold and support Tampa Bay's military community.
We also stand ready to provide whatever support may be necessary, to assist our elected officials in actively managing the steps to recovery and architecting real and sustainable protection for those who protect our country.
With respect, your leadership is needed now. Please contact me should you have any questions at 813-731-1746.
John R. Schueler
Tampa Bay Defense Alliance
SOURCE Tampa Bay Defense Alliance