Q&A: Following shutdown, how soon will the federal government get back in order?

A file photo of the Capitol mirrored in the Reflecting Pool in the District of Colombia, as the partial government shutdown headed into a second week | Photo by J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press, St. George News

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA (AP) — With the longest shutdown in U.S. history officially over, here’s a look at how the federal government will get back to regular business:

When will federal workers get paid?

It’s unclear at this time. The White House tweeted that it will be “in the coming days.”

Some 800,000 workers were furloughed or required to work without pay. They will receive back pay.

While the Trump administration is promising to pay federal workers as soon as possible, a senior official says agencies are in charge of their own payroll issues and workers should check with their departments for details about when the back pay will arrive.

Under the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act that Trump signed into law Jan. 16, workers are to get their back pay “as soon as possible after the lapse in appropriations ends, regardless of scheduled pay dates.” That means they shouldn’t have to wait for their next payday to get those back wages.

The Office of Management and Budget instructed agencies Friday night to ensure they had adequate staff on hand to support payroll processes and to answer employees’ benefit questions as they return to work.

How soon will the national parks open?

Many remained open during the shutdown but at reduced staffing levels. Theresa Pierno, president and CEO for the National Parks Conservation Association, said some parks suffered “terrible damage” during the shutdown. One of the first jobs for park workers will be to assess that damage.

The entrance stations to Zion National Park are closed due to the federal government shutdown, Zion National Park, Utah, Jan. 14, 2019 | File photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

“The damage done to our parks will be felt for weeks, months or even years,” she said.

P. Daniel Smith, Deputy Director of the National Park Service, said the National Park Service is preparing to resume regular operations nationwide though the schedule for individual parks may vary depending on staff size and complexity of operations.

“Many parks which have been accessible throughout the lapse in appropriations remain accessible with basic services,” he said. “Visitors should contact individual parks or visit park websites for their opening schedules and the latest information on accessibility and visitor services. Some parks which have been closed throughout the lapse in appropriations may not reopen immediately, but we will work to open all parks as quickly as possible.”

Will air travelers get a break soon, too?

The TSA personnel screen passengers at the St. George Regional Airport, St. George, Utah, July 6, 2017 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The shutdown had become a source of growing alarm for travelers and airlines. The absence rate among airport screeners peaked at 10 percent last weekend, meaning longer lines. On Friday, the absence of six air traffic control workers contributed to massive delays along the East Coast. LaGuardia Airport in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey were particularly affected, and delays rippled outward from there — about 3,000 late flights by midafternoon.

The end of the shutdown should relieve those problems. That said, the Transportation Security Administration has emphasized that the large majority of passengers haven’t suffered from the shutdown. The TSA said that only 3.7 percent of travelers screened Wednesday — or about 65,000 people — waited 15 minutes or longer.

When will the president deliver his State of the Union address?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will discuss a date with President Donald Trump once the government is open. She did not provide any further details Friday, except to say “I’ll look forward to doing that and welcoming the president to the House of Representatives for the State of the Union.”


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Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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