Group urges debt committee to consider rural feds

Workforce cuts would fall heavily on small towns and rural areas, where federal agencies may be among the largest employers.

Cuts to federal jobs could take a disproportionate toll on rural communities, says the non-profit Federally Employed Women, citing recent studies.

FEW urged the debt reduction committee, which met for the first time Thursday, to consider recent data from Patchwork Nation, a research project by the Jefferson Institute that organizes the United States into 12 county types based on income level, employment, religion and other factors.

The project looked at the roughly 2 million total federal jobs and determined how many were located in each county type across the United States. With 85 percent of federal jobs located outside of the Washington area, workforce cuts would fall heavily on small towns and rural areas, where a facility such as a federal prison or military installation may provide a large number of jobs for the area.

Cuts in these more remote counties would have a more painful economic effect, as there are far fewer private sector employers, according to Patchwork Nation.

"We know we all have to make sacrifices but you have to consider the long term impacts," said Janet Kopenhaver, Washington representative for FEW. "They're forgetting about all these people in rural and remote areas. Private companies just aren't moving to these areas."

Cuts to the federal workforce would mean reduced health and retirement benefits, which are hard to find from private sector jobs in small towns, said Kopenhaver, who also serves as president of Eye on Washington, a lobbying and political advocacy group, which contributed data to Patchwork Nation's report

FEW members will continue to press Congress and the debt committee on the matter, Kopenhaver says.

"We are going to be monitoring it. I'm sure every lobbyist in town is going to be dealing with the super committee," she said.