Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, answered questions from BDN readers recently regarding jobs and preventing furloughs for federal employees.

Are there any plans in the works to have a jobs bill passed in Congress, and, if so, why has it taken so long? — Joe Bartek

“I agree with you that Congress should be focusing like a laser on what we can do to spur the economy and create much-needed jobs. I’ve introduced a small business tax bill with a Democratic senator from Pennsylvania that would help give small businesses the certainty that they need to create new jobs. It provides some incentives for them to invest in plants and equipment, and that in itself would help to create more jobs.”

I would like to know what is being done to prevent furloughs and stop furloughs for fiscal year 2013 for federal employees. These furloughs are causing significant hardships not only in Aroostook County but all over the country. — Meagan Pinette

“I absolutely agree with you that furloughs are causing unnecessary hardship for so many families, and it has a ripple effect on the entire economy. … Unfortunately in Washington right now, we’re operating under a process called sequestration, and the result of that is that most agencies have very little flexibility in how they cut their programs. That is leading to furloughs. Now the Defense Department does have flexibility, and I’m disappointed that it hasn’t used the authority to prevent more furloughs. It has been used selectively, but I think with some creativity more furloughs could have been averted.”