Businesses, City Relieved By Return Of Federal Workers

It was back to work Thursday for thousands of federal employees in Washington, D.C., following the end of the 16-day government shutdown. The return to work was also a relief for business owners and city officials, who have been hurt by the loss of income from federal workers and tourists.

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After a 16-day shutdown, hundreds of thousands of federal employees went back to their offices today. National parks welcomed visitors again and the Smithsonian Museums reopened their doors, as well. But despite the relief of things being more or less back to normal, NPR's Allison Keyes tells us the shutdown has shaken people's confidence in the government.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Good morning. How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You're back in business.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Back in business.

ALLISON KEYES, BYLINE: The commuters streaming out of a busy subway station straddling several federal offices got a smile along, with their newspaper, as they bustled back to work this morning. Cheryl Andres was grinning in her salmon coat.

CHERYL ANDRES: It feels good that everybody's back to work all happy.

BOB ZALINSKY: I was furloughed. Good to be back.

KEYES: Bob Zalinsky works for the FAA and says he got a lot done during the shutdown.

ZALINSKY: I was doing housework. No golf, just housework.

(LAUGHTER)

KEYES: But he's worried about whether he'll only get a partial paycheck on Tuesday. And he's unimpressed with the agreement that reopened the government because it only funds it into January.

ZALINSKY: They just kicked the can down the road for another three months.

SHAR EDWARDS: It's been really frustrating and it's been very - we've just been very disgusted with the government.

KEYES: Shar Edwards says she waited 20 years to come to Washington to see the monuments and she's discouraged by all the government bickering. She says she's glad they worked it out in time for her to catch some of the sights.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Welcome to the museum, ladies and gentleman. Please have all bags open for inspection. You may enter.

KEYES: Edwards was among those waiting to get into to the re-opened Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. So was CJ Harrison, who arrived on Saturday and had a 3 p.m. flight out today.

CJ HARRISON: You know we had planned to take our time and enjoy it. But it's going to be a whirlwind tour through the museums quickly.

MAYOR VINCENT GRAY: We've seen a drop in the areas in tourism and hospitality.

KEYES: Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray says the shutdown has been costly. Tourism is the city's largest employer outside of the federal government. In the first week of October, he says hotel reservations were down.

GRAY: Thirteen thousand fewer hotel bookings in the District of Columbia, and about a $2 million loss in revenue.

KEYES: Sami Solomon understands a drop in revenue. He owns a hot dog cart outside of a subway stop usually packed with federal workers.

SAMI SOLOMON: More than 70 percent of the business gone.

KEYES: But he smiled looking at the hordes streaming out of the subway station as he stacked snacks in his cart.

SOLOMON: I'm so glad. I'm so glad.

KEYES: Because he and restaurants and other businesses that depend on their federal worker clientele won't be getting back pay.

Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

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