"It's red alert. It's crisis time in our region." That was the jarring assessment from Cardinal Bank President Kevin Reynolds at a roundtable organized to reassure customers hit by furlough that they could get help with financial struggles.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) pulled together a group of business leaders, utility companies and furloughed worker representatives to get the word out to furloughed workers who've gone without pay for two weeks shouldn't delay in seeking help from creditors if money is getting tight.
"The Commonwealth of Virginia is the hardest hit of any state in the nation," reminded Rep. Moran.
A recent survey of National Treasury Employees Union members showed because of furloughs 84 percent say they've cut back on necessities, 70 percent are having difficulty making ends meet, 48 percent have delayed medical treatment.
"The impact on them has been devastating as you can imagine," said NTEU President Colleen Kelley.
Representatives of Washington Gas and Dominion Power both told the group they encourage furloughed workers to call or sign up for payment plans. They acknowledge pride may keep some from reaching out for help.
"We try to be conscious of how people are feeling if people have not had to ask for help before, sometimes pride won’t let them," said Gianna Clark, Dominion Power vice president. "We encourage them, Please, ask for help."
Cardinal Bank President Kevin Reynolds says his branch managers and other employees have been instructed to be sensitive to furloughed customers and to consider extending lines of credit or payment extensions.
At Alexandria Hyundai, customers who've financed through the Hyundai Motor Finance can defer car payments until after they are called back to work and interest will be forgiven.
But even as the executives at the roundtable offered a helping hand they acknowledge the shutdown is hurting their bottom line, too. At Alexandria Hyundai, for example, new car sales in the first two weeks of October 2013 are down 28 percent compared to the same time last year. President Kevin Reilly said he doesn't expect the deal to reopen the government will mean new car buyers will come rushing back, especially with the threat of another shutdown looming in January. His dealership is braced for a much longer term impact.
"We're going to face this challenge for a while because people, are uncertain and not going to forget this too soon after, so it will be a challenge for a little while," said Reilly.
Another consequence is the loss of talented employees, the owner of federal contractor Indus Corporation said. His company, which contracts with the EPA, has been closed during the shutdown. Three employees have already left for new positions.
Moran fears the same will happen with federal government workers.
"We are going to lose thousands of federal employees who will not put themselves and their families through this stress again," he said.