Furloughed federal employees back to work in Utah as shutdown ends

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By Mike Vogel

SALT LAKE CITY -- As quickly as the government shutdown ended, federal employees in Utah got back to work.

There are literally thousands of employees here in Utah that were back on the job Thursday, and they’re happy because they’re finally getting a paycheck again and ecstatic they’ll once again get benefits.

Valerie Austin is a single mom of three who works for the IRS. For her family, the government shutdown has been brutal.

“I can’t ask for help, because my mom’s pretty much in the same boat; she’s also an IRS employee,” she said.

Austin was able to return to work Thursday. She’s been out of work now for three weeks.

“It really sucks because I’m thinking: There goes money," she said. "How else am I supposed to survive and live, without any income coming in?”

She doesn’t know if she’ll get paid for the time she was off, but for now she said she’s very happy to go back to work.

“I am, for the bigger paycheck, and also for the health insurance is a big worry too, because if we’re out of work for so long our insurance stops,” she said.

Like hundreds of other federal employees across the nation, employees at Hill Air Force Base returned to work, even though most of the furloughed workers have been back on the job since October 7.

Marae Persson’s husband and son-in-law work at Hill, one son works at Immigration and Customs Enforcement and another son is a TSA employee like her.

Though TSA employees in Utah were also technically furloughed, they still had to go to work.

“I’ll bet passengers going through the airport had no idea that these guys weren’t getting paid, because we showed up and did our job," Persson said. "Business as usual."

She said the government shutdown has been a hardship.

“It’s been scary, because by law I have to come to work so that we can protect property and people, but we were not paid during that time,” she said.

To make it worse, they also had to shell out their own money for expenses like gas, lunch and daycare--which is money they might never see again.

Many families are grateful for their jobs, but they’re also still worried because they don’t know if they’ll get paid for the past three weeks and there is concern that this might happen again.