NORFOLK-There is new hope tonight for thousands of ship-repair workers and shipbuilders in Hampton Roads.
A resolution under consideration in the Senate would keep the federal government funded through the end of the fiscal year on September 30.
The $984 billion continuing resolution dovetails closely with the House version, which passed last week with a bipartisan coalition of 53 Democrats and 214 Republicans.
Both versions of the resolution allow the Defense Department more leeway in its use of funds, which could mean a number of local ship-repair and ship-building projects could go forward as originally planned.
The resolution could mean that eleven canceled ship-repair contracts could be back on track. In addition, overhauls of USS Abraham Lincoln, USS Theodore Roosevelt, and preliminary work on the new USS John F. Kennedy could proceed.
“Two weeks ago, it was all doom and gloom. Now, I would say we’re cautiously optimistic,” said Virginia Ship Repair Association president Bill Crow.
Last month, BAE Systems of Norfolk sent WARN letters to more than 1,600 of its employees that layoffs could be coming.
Crow says he is hopeful his 40,000 workers may now be spared from layoffs.
Senator Tim Kaine took to the Senate floor to voice his support for the resolution.
“We have chance to get it right and reduce the negative effects of sequester,” Kaine said. “It will allow us to move forward on significant ship-refurbishment and ship-repair contracts.”
The House version of the continuing resolution includes money for building two Virginia-class submarines, constructed in part at Newport News Shipbuilding, and the House bill appropriates a 1.7 percent pay increase for military personnel.
Left unresolved in both versions of the resolution are sequester-related plans to furlough more than 800,000 civilian Department of Defense workers starting on April 26.
It is believed a full Senate vote on its version of the continuing resolution will come Thursday. Any differences with the House version would have to be ironed out before a final bill goes to the desk of President Obama.
Time is of the essence, given that the current continuing resolution expires in 15 days, and unless a new resolution is passed, the federal government will shut down.