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Furloughed Workers Cheer as the Government Shutdown Ends
After the emergency of possible default forced Congress’s hand and made the Republicans cave and agree to raising the debt ceiling before the Oct. 17 deadline, a great sigh of relief was felt collectively as the 16 days of furloughs came to an end. As of Thursday, most of the 7,000 furloughed workers were back in their right place, albeit often with weeks of back-work to catch up on. Places like Yosemite National Park in California opened at midnight.
“I am thrilled to be back,” said National Park Service worker Carol Johnson, as reported by USA Today.
Not only are the furloughed workers back, with Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell instructing that “You should reopen offices in a prompt and orderly manner,” but they will also receive back pay for their time off.
Nevertheless, the furloughing process is not a simply an on / off switch. As Nick Schwellenback, senior fiscal policy analyst for the Center for Effective Government, said some agencies with large numbers will only be able to open slowly.
“It was a two-week shutdown, that’s not an insignificant amount of time, and work piles up,” he said. He noted that at the National Institutes of Health, “a scientist whose experiments were interrupted and ruined may need to start over.”
There is a sentiment of gratitude among returning employees, nevertheless, with NASA tweeting “We’re back and in the process of turning things back on!” and the Smithsonian saying “We’re back from the #shutdown!” and a lot of exuberant employees saying things like “The first couple of days of the furlough were nice but pretty quickly I was aching to work,” as Jason Labay of the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland said, and adding, “We’re just excited to be back.”
The tone of gratitude seems a bit peculiar, when something like resentment might seem more fitting, but perhaps this is like a friend who survives a car crash that spectacularly destroyed his car, but instead of blaming fate for such a loss, is instead telling all his friends what a miracle it was that he was saved and how blessed he is.
Nevertheless, a more realistic assessment on how to prevent these things from happening must be settled soon, as the agreements Congress made are short-lived and temporary: Congress has to learn to agree and vote together instead voting apart, or we could see a repeat as early as January. Setting things in order so that thousands of workers are no longer tokens for political games seems the most justified objective to work towards.