BOISE -- The Federal Government shutdown is over, and a quarter million furloughed federal workers headed back to work Thursday, some of them, here in Idaho. The federal employees we talked to said it was a frustrating two-and-half weeks, sitting at home waiting for the time when the furloughs would end. That time was Thursday, as they got back to work. However, getting things back to normal will take longer.
Dave Olson is the Boise National Forest Spokesperson. He's worked for the U.S. Forest Service for more than 40 years. But two-and-a-half weeks ago, like many in his office, he was furloughed because of the Government shutdown.
"We like what we do," said Olson. "We are dedicated to what we do. It was frustrating not being able to do what we wanted to do."
Olson says many of those furloughed were worried about making ends meet, because there was no guarantee of any back pay. But Thursday morning, after the shutdown ended, they were assured of that back pay, and they all came back to work. "We're just happy to be here, and back to work again."
Across Idaho, thousands of federal employees came back to work. But many, came back to find a backlog.
"There were a lot of things that were missed that would've been done normally over the past three weeks," said Olson. "So for example, the prescribed burning program was really impacted. Some of the recreation operations were impacted, and the ability to have firewood sales."
One of the first things Olson's office did, was to re-authorize timber contracts. Those were suspended earlier this week, crippling the logging industry, but just for a few days.
"The goal really is, today, to get us going again," said Olson. "Get the Government functioning again. Get the Forest functioning again."
But, they're more than two weeks behind. So for Olson, federal employees everywhere, and the businesses that rely on them, there's some catching up to do. "The words we keep hearing are, 'Be patient and flexible.'"
A lot of things were put on hold or delayed while the Government was shutdown, including being able to get something as simple as firewood permits. That's why the The Ketchum Ranger District and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area offices will be open this Saturday, to give people an extra day to pick those up.