Federal Agencies Prepare To Reopen After Government Shutdown Deal Is Reached
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now to the other major story we've been following - the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. The president and Congress finally reached a deal to reopen the government - at least, for the next three weeks. But as NPR's Shannon Van Sant reports, agencies that were closed for the 35-day shutdown might take some time to get back up to full speed.
SHANNON VAN SANT, BYLINE: The Smithsonian and other museums and the National Zoo will reopen on Tuesday. While a third of the country's national parks were closed, some remained partially open during the shutdown. Kristen Brengel is a lobbyist for the National Parks Conservation Association.
KRISTEN BRENGEL: So now the staff are going to have to go back into the parks and look for damage, make sure things are OK, ensure that historic sites are still well-protected.
VAN SANT: Other agencies are making plans as well. The IRS will rush to prepare for tax season. But some projects backed by grants and loans under the USDA's Rural Development Program may be delayed for months. Florida's Gulf Coast Children's Advocacy Center was granted $343,000 for a new facility to help child victims of rape and domestic abuse. The center's director, Lori Allen, says plans for construction have stalled.
LORI ALLEN: At this point, we're kind of at a standstill. We're really not sure what direction we need to go. And unfortunately, federal workers have been out of work for over a month.
VAN SANT: Even after the government reopens, impacts of the shutdown will continue to be felt. Brengel says the national parks have lost an estimated $15 million in ticket fee revenue. That goes towards paying for repairs and educational programs.
BRENGEL: That $15 million has pretty much evaporated, so that will hurt some parks going into the summer season if they had projects that they had teed up.
VAN SANT: Parks will also have to hurry to hire seasonal employees like rangers and law enforcement, a process which normally begins early in January.
BRENGEL: This shutdown can possibly result in having very damaging impacts on the spring and summer season if they can't get these folks hired in the next couple of weeks.
VAN SANT: The White House says federal workers will receive backpay in the coming days, though it's not certain exactly when they can expect their checks. The shutdown's effects have been felt in the private sector as well. John Arensmeyer is the head of advocacy group Small Business Majority.
JOHN ARENSMEYER: I think what we've learned from this shutdown is how the ripple effects of this - how widespread they are and how important it is that we keep in mind that there are many, many hundreds of thousands, millions of lives at stake for seemingly small decisions by the government. And we really can't have this happen again.
VAN SANT: The longest shutdown in U.S. history is over, but for many, a long and difficult process of recovery has just begun.
Shannon Van Sant, NPR News, Washington.
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