Furloughed federal employees began returning to work on Thursday, after the end of a 16-day partial shutdown of the U.S. government. Their return meant national parks could reopen, small businesses could access federal assistance, and aviation safety inspectors could resume their queries.
National Parks and Forests:
Yosemite National Park reopened Wednesday night. The National Park Service announced that major highways and roads leading into and through the park were immediately open to vehicles.
Staff at Joshua Tree National Park began working Wednesday night to reopen. By Thursday morning, the west entrance and three visitor centers were open. But park spokeswoman Lorna Shuman warned that it would take longer to get the park's nine campgrounds ready for campers. When the shutdown started, staff gave campers 48 hours to leave the park and closed the campgrounds without any cleaning or maintenance. But on Thursday, they were working to clean and inspect the campgrounds for any danger so campers could return.
"Our plan is to push to get them open by 8:00 Friday morning at the latest," Shuman said, adding that the three campgrounds that take reservations are usually full every weekend in October, the beginning of busy season.
Ninety-two employees at Joshua Tree were furloughed, with 15 staying on to address any potential emergencies during the shutdown.
"As I was calling staff last night to tell them to report for work, everyone seemed very giddy and excited to be coming back to work," Shuman said.
Small Business Administration
The federal agency that offers counseling and other assistance to small businesses had furloughed most of its employees, effectively halting the processing of SBA loan applications. The staff has returned to work in the Los Angeles District office, and that's a relief to non-profits like the Los Angeles Small Business Development Center Network. Regional Director Jesse Torres said during the shutdown, his program manager and other contacts at the SBA couldn't respond to any phone calls or emails, so any questions about contract management or day-to-day operations had to wait. He imagines many business owners faced the same problem during the shutdown.
"There are probably a lot of overflowing inboxes of voicemails and emails today, and I'm sure that our centers will be responding to different inquires from different business owners who'd been trying to reach out to agencies and hadn't really heard anything," Torres said.
Federal Aviation Administration
The end of the shutdown means 500 FAA employees in Southern California are back at work. They include safety inspectors and attorneys who work on enforcement cases against pilots or mechanics who might have violated FAA regulations. Staff have also returned to work in an FAA office that reviews plans from developers to build tall buildings near airports. Those reviews were on hold during the shutdown.
A spokesman for Camp Pendleton Marine Corp Base said commissaries on the base, which closed in the early days of the shutdown, reopened last week.