The Defense Department’s sudden halt on military moves could send “tens of thousands” of workers into unemployment in coming weeks and cripple storage and moving businesses for years to come, one of the largest industry associations warned this week.

Daniel Bradley, director of government and military relations for the International Association of Movers, said the announcement earlier this week that all permanent change of station moves would be postponed until at least mid-May was “not coordinated with the moving industry” and will have tremendous effects beyond the military community.

“This stop movement order comes at critical time and could result in a number of companies closing their doors, especially in more remote areas where businesses are specifically tied to supporting (military) installations and have very few opportunities to diversify their moving business with corporate, residential or even office moves,” he said.

“It’s hard to estimate the workers this will impact. Beyond (transportation service providers) and local moving agents involved in the program — which is in the tens of thousands — there are industry suppliers who also support these entities.”

Last week, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist announced a near total halt to official military moves and travel in response to the coronavirus outbreak, which has already resulted in 150 deaths across America.

As of Friday, 67 servicemembers, 26 dependents, 15 defense civilian workers, and 16 defense contractors had been confirmed to have the illness.

As a result of Norquist’s order, U.S. Transportation Command ordered moving companies “to take no action on scheduled pick-ups and pack-outs of household goods" and directed service members to work through their chain of command if they believe they should be eligible for a travel waiver.

Officials from IAM and the American Moving and Storage Association have already begun lobbying Congress for financial help as a result of the military’s move restrictions, saying their losses could top $200 million.

Bradley said his association is working with U.S. Transportation Command on response to the changes. But he also is warning that many companies will shut down before May if solutions aren’t found for their financial losses.

“Getting some infusion of cash to allow moving companies to keep their doors open now will help companies be ready to support DoD personnel moves once the stop movement order is lifted,” he said.

“Without it, some capacity may be lost forever, and what capacity is left will take more time to gear up to support a typical (military) peak season.”

The Defense Department is the single largest shipper of household goods in the world, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all business.

Congressional leaders are discussing a third emergency legislative package in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Senate Republican leaders on Thursday unveiled the outline of a $1 trillion deal which would include funding for industries and individuals to help offset losses from nationwide quarantine and isolation orders.

White House officials in private meetings have said that unemployment for the country could reach as high as 20 percent in coming months, according to various news sources.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

Dylan Gresik is a reporting intern for Military Times through Northwestern University's Journalism Residency program.

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