Federal employees allowed to resume work following reopening of government

Bre Westry, Staff Writer

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The longest government shutdown in the history of the United States government ended Jan. 25 after President Donald Trump and congressional leaders reached a short-term deal allowing the government to begin operations again.

The partial-government shutdown forcefully closed the doors of many important federal offices including the Department of Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, TSA, and the FDA. After 35 workless days, furloughed government employees can return to their jobs.

The shutdown occurred after Congress, in a long standing feud on border security, failed to pass a new government funding law after the previous one expired. Beginning Dec. 22, more than 800,000 federal employees were told that work activity would desist, leaving the majority of workers without a job, without pay and without an end in sight. Those who did have to continue to work for the government, such as the 36,000 IRS employees, 1,700 FAA aviation safety inspectors and 53,000 TSA agents who were recalled, worked without pay.

Effects of the shutdown are not only being felt on the national level; they hit close to home as well. Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson Library closed its doors following the news from Congress, and national parks like Big Bend closed visiting centers, campgrounds and restrooms. Though the shutdown isn’t expected to impede tax returns, the Central Texas IRS employs about 5,200 people, according to a 2016 article from the Austin American Statesman; all of which were furloughed.

For prospective immigrants, the shutdown meant a stalemate at immigration court. In Texas, over 119,000 cases are backlogged according to data from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. As the shutdown lengthened, more cases continued to pile on as immigration judges sat at home gavel-less.

Members of the St. Edward’s community are feeling the blow from this shutdown too, such as senior theater student De’ja White, 21. White’s mother works as an accountant for the United States Department of Agriculture. During White’s visit home to New Orleans for the winter holiday break, her mother received an email around Dec. 27, informing employees that they could not log on or use their work computers until further notice.

“I don’t really think she had a warning,” White said.

Upon hearing the news, White’s mother moved out of her apartment, initially a temporary maneuver, and went to live with White’s grandmother. She was not able to move back. Using a massive line of credit and taking out loans, White’s mom was able to afford rent for a new apartment, buying her some time.

White’s mother has since been looking for a second job, but her health issues hamper those efforts.

“My mom has a bunch of health problems and stays by herself,” said White. “During the break I washed her clothes and packed her things in her apartment to bring it to storage.”

Since White will be away at school, she doesn’t want her mother to try to tackle any unnecessary household projects in the case that she has to move again.

Former student Stephen McCray, 21, employed by D&D Texas Outfitters, is feeling the tension from the partial-shutdown as he and his company are unable to complete an important deal with the FAA. The deal was scheduled to be finished at the end of the semester, but has now been pushed back.

The deal will determine whether the contracting company will continue to do business with D&D and is about one-ninth of the department’s goal for the month. For McCray himself, the contract is one-third of his monthly personal sales goal.

“It’s stressful. I’m at the point in my life where the extra money I could make from getting this deal finalized can swing the big life decisions I’m getting ready to make,” said McCray.

Though this past weekend’s government reopening does potentially let furloughed federal workers like White’s mother breathe a sigh of relief, the bill only keeps the government open for three weeks, at the end of which Congress will be back at a crossroads to approve a final budget or enter cessation once more.