The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

October 17, 2013

Federal workers back to work after 16-day shutdown

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

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 U.S. Capitol's visitor center planned to resume tours Thursday, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was reopening, and the Smithsonian Institution 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.

"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 with the Smithsonian'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 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.

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."

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