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Federal workers back to work after 16-day shutdown

Posted: October 17, 2013 - 9:18am

WASHINGTON (AP) — Barriers went down at federal memorials and National Park Service sites, and thousands of furloughed federal workers returned to work across the country Thursday after 16 days off the job due to the partial government shutdown.

Among the sites reopening were Gettysburg National Park in Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Capitol visitors center. Hundreds of others across the country were ready to follow suit throughout Thursday.

"Just to be able to get back to serving the public is so important," said Greg Bettwy as he prepared to return to his job in Washington with the Smithsonian Institution's human resource department. Bettwy said he watched his spending carefully during the shutdown — choosing store brands at the grocery store and forgoing a trip to see a Penn State football game.

The Office of Personnel Management announced that workers should return to work on their next regularly scheduled work day — Thursday for most workers. Nationwide, hundreds of thousands of workers have been furloughed since the shutdown began Oct. 1. The office encouraged agencies to be flexible for a smooth transition by allowing telework and excused absences in some cases.

In Washington, the Capitol's visitor center planned to resume tours Thursday, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was reopening, and the Smithsonian — overseer of many of Washington's major museums — proclaimed on Twitter, "We're back from the (hashtag)shutdown!" The National Zoo was set to reopen Friday, though its popular panda cam was expected to be back online Thursday.

The returning workers' presence will be felt on the roads and rails in the Washington region, where commutes have been less crowded over the past two weeks. The regional transit agency, Metro, reported a 20 percent drop in ridership when the shutdown began and has said it lost a few hundred thousand dollars each day.

Osman Naimyar, a taxi cab driver in Washington, said his business dropped by 15 to 20 percent during the shutdown, and he was pleased to see it end.

"More business. More money," he said.

Workers began filing in well before dawn at the U.S. Geological Survey's campus in Reston, about 20 miles outside of Washington.

"Feels kind of strange," said Kathleen Faison of Ashburn, a training specialist at the survey, as she headed into the office. "I kind of wish they would have kept us out until Monday."

Faison said during the first few days of the shutdown, she followed the news closely, anticipating that she could be called back any day. But by week two, "I just kind of fell into my own personal routine," she said.

She said she considered teleworking for the first day or two but eventually decided "I might as well just get back into the swing of things."

Hydrologist Julian Wayland, carrying his lunch in a paper bag, said he wasn't sure how much work had piled up during the shutdown. His primary job is determining the age of groundwater samples.

"We're definitely behind," he said. "I'm glad it's over."

In Ohio, visitor centers, restrooms and other areas at Cuyahoga Valley National Park were back in service.

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, also was reopening on a normal basis. It had been open only one day during the shutdown.

Nationwide, the impasse had shuttered monuments and national parks. In Florida, the closure of the Everglades National Park had put almost all Florida Bay off limits, but commercial fishermen were set to return Friday. Parks across the country made similar plans.

The shutdown also mostly closed down NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department. Critical functions of government went on as usual, but the closure and potential default weighed on the economy and spooked the financial markets.

Standard & Poor's estimated the shutdown has taken $24 billion out of the economy.


Crary reported from New York. Associated Press writer Matthew Barakat in Reston, Va., contributed to this report.

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KenaiKardinal88 10/19/13 - 05:31 am
Double Dipping At Taxpayer Expense

Thousands of government workers filed for and received unemployment benefits during the temporary shutdown. Now that they've got their back pay and a bonus, how many will pay back their ill-gotten unemployment benefits.

They steal from us taxpayers and Obama borrows from the Chinese to make up the difference. Thanks also to Begich and Murkowski for feeding at the government trough.

Raoulduke 10/19/13 - 07:39 am

One must have a WAITING period before any Unemployment monies are distributed.Hence! The 16 day lay off,and the fact they would be getting back pay.This would negate any,and all unemployment benefits at this double dipping is of no concern at this time.Concern should be placed about the signers of the pledge to shut down the government,and their complicity in TREASON.

Allen 10/21/13 - 03:16 pm
Get the Facts

KenaiKardinal88: you are wrong.

Fact: Furloughed (laid off) federal workers can APPLY for unemployment benefits in some states for the days they were furloughed during the shutdown. I could find nothing that stated that anyone who had applied had actually RECEIVED unemployment benefits yet.

Fact: Congress MIGHT grant back pay to furloughed workers but both houses haven't agreed to do that yet.

Fact: If the furloughed workers are granted back pay, they won't get unemployment insurance.

Fact: Federal employees who worked without a paycheck during the shutdown do not qualify for unemployment.

Source: Washington Post 10/16/13

BigRedDog 10/23/13 - 08:12 am
On Borrowed Time

That's what ALL federal workers are on is Borrowed Time and Money! It is time that America wakes up and I'm not talking about some religious pamphlet on your doorstep. When elderly parents start spending like drunken sailors you should pay attention and do something fast, otherwise you will pay for that ride with more than attention. It will cost you cold hard cash in most states. You can inherit your parents debt and will be held responsible for it's payment right to the point of bankruptcy.
Did that get your attention? Now while your thinking put the US Gov. in the pay slot same as your parents. That is where they are positioned as far as the World Banking institutions are concerned, and they are concerned! This isn't a slap in the face to my many liberal and progressive thinking posters who cruise these blogs. You see I think you don't have a clue to the distrust current Government spending policies ignite within conservative voters.
For some reason you FEEL it should just be okay for the Government to spend SO much that each individual US taxpayers debt is $140,000 plus interest! I don't know about you but I have a very engrained habit of paying MY debts. I think we have a responsibility to society to provide for yourself and help in the provision of others less fortunate. To have someone spending what on a personal level is $38,500 a year while earning only $21,800 is a problem. Then wanting to kick that can down the road by putting it on MY future bill bothers me greatly. I'm not trying to blame every liberal progressive minded voter, who doesn't mind spending my money like a drunken sailor. I'm just saying children we better ALL get our US Gov. to get control of itself or the drunken overspending will put our economy on the Rocks!
Again I'm not pointing fingers, giving fingers or blame as there is plenty to go around. To force other states to pay for the cost of our huge decaying metropolitan ghettoes is robbery. When the problems associated with this urban decay are self inflicted resulting in perpetual dependence on public support. That support is NEEDED as my progressive minded posters remind me because there is no chance of economic stability in some of these areas. That is because the taxing of business and industry to support this ever increasing NEED has driven smart business and industry elsewhere.
Maybe, just maybe business and industrial leaders are trying to say something. You see it appears to them that they are being taken for more than just a ride. For whatever reason there are some that don't WANT to see where that ride leads or comes to an end! Just remember every failed democracy SO far has been replaced by a dictatorship!

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