Tornado victims at Tinker AFB get exception from furloughs

As thousands of employees feel the sting of mandatory furloughs at Tinker Air Force Base, storm victims, like Deanna Witt, are allowed to work full weeks.

"We had no idea that was going to happen," said Witt, "but it was nice that they were taking into consideration our circumstances."

Witt lives near Veterans Memorial Park in Moore, although her home made it through the EF-5 tornado on May 20, the ceiling caved in during the storms on May 31.

"Having that extra money will definitely help to get back in the house," she said.

Witt is one of many Tinker employees who get an exception from sequestration furloughs. The US Air Force invoked Alternate Safe Haven Authorities for Tinker AFB after May's deadly storms. Under this policy, storm victims are protected by law.

"Part of the entitlements under safe haven is the continuation of pay which excludes them from ability from being furloughed," explained Nicole Gage, Flight Chief of Manpower & Personnel at Tinker AFB.

Storm victims who receive an exception from furloughs are permitted to work 5-day weeks with full pay until they find permanent housing or move back home.

"Once they secure permanent housing and they're no longer in an evacuation status, then they are now subject to furlough," said Gage.

Witt says she will move back into her house in three weeks, which means she will soon face furloughs along with other Tinker employees, but she is still counting the days until she can walk through the front door.

"There's no place like home and you don't know it until it's gone," said Witt.

Furloughs in the Department of Defense began on Monday, most Tinker employees will have their first furlough day on Friday. Mandatory furloughs continue through September 30.