Government Begins Reopening Agencies, Paying Furloughed Workers

U.S. government agencies closed during the 35-day partial shutdown began reopening Saturday, two days before the Internal Revenue Service will begin processing 2018 tax filings.

The shutdown ended Friday night, after President Donald Trump signed a three-week spending bill passed by Congress to end the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget sent a memo late Friday to closed federal government departments and agencies to inform them that their divisions were now open and that their employees could return to work. The memo also called on the agencies to “reopen offices in a prompt and orderly manner.”

A note “to all IRS employees” on the department’s website said employees were expected to report to work “no later than four hours after this announcement is posted on Friday, January 25, 2019, at 9:30 p.m. ET.” Beyond that, the post advised employees to “report to work at the beginning of your next scheduled workday.”

​Other agencies

Some websites of other departments that had been affected by the shutdown — State, Transportation, Agriculture, Justice and Interior — had notices that the departments would be back up and running as soon as possible. The Interior Department, however, still had a video titled “Seasons Greetings from Interior.”

Many parks — from the Virgin Islands National Park to the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in Minnesota — reopened Saturday, but a statement from Grand Canyon officials said the park, in the southwest U.S. state of Arizona, would not be entirely operational until the end of next week.

In Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are to reopen Tuesday.

Roughly 800,000 federal employees missed their second consecutive paychecks on Friday. Earlier this week, Congress passed and Trump signed legislation ordering federal agencies to issue back pay to workers “at the earliest date possible.” But officials cautioned that it could take several days for federal employees to receive back pay.

VOA parent

On Saturday, the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees VOA, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and other organizations, sent employees two emails regarding “Return to Work and Back Pay Processing Instructions,” which included information that the agency’s payroll office would offer several informational sessions on the processing of back pay claims.

The bill funding the government through Feb. 15 does not include money for the construction of Trump’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall. The president said that a bipartisan committee would be formed to evaluate border security, but, contrary to previous claims, he was not asking for a concrete wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

On Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California named the Democratic House members who will serve on the bipartisan committee to evaluate border security. They are Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey of New York, Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, David Price of North Carolina, Barbara Lee of California, Henry Cuellar of Texas and Pete Aguilar of California. House Republicans had yet to name members to the committee by late Saturday.

In the Senate, those who will serve on the bipartisan committee are Democrats Jon Tester of Montana, ranking member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Republicans Richard Shelby of Alabama, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Roy Blunt of Missouri.

Trump tweets

The president issued a series of tweets Saturday morning about the shutdown and the wall, saying that after two previous caravans of thousands of migrants had been turned away at the southern U.S. border, a new caravan with at least 8,000 people had formed in Mexico and was headed for the U.S.

Trump then noted, “21 days goes very quickly. Negotiations with Democrats will start immediately. Will not be easy to make a deal, both parties very dug in. The case for National Security has been greatly enhanced by what has been happening at the Border & through dialogue. We will build the Wall!”

The date for Trump’s delivery of his State of the Union address to Congress was still unknown. It was originally scheduled for Jan. 29, but Pelosi delayed the address, citing the shutdown.


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