The End Of The Shutdown? The shutdown is over... for now. Today on the Indicator, we talk to one of the 800,000 formerly-furloughed federal employees about his experience of the shutdown.
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The End Of The Shutdown?

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The End Of The Shutdown?

The End Of The Shutdown?

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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John Carnell (ph) always knew he wanted to work outside. He traces it back to all the time he spent outside as a kid.

JOHN CARNELL: I grew up in Virginia. So I went to Shenandoah National Park and the George Washington National Forest a lot. And the way I look at my job is that it's my way of giving back to the land.


After college, John went to work for the Park Service and then for the Forest Service. He's 26 now, and he works at Hoosier National Forest in Indiana.

VANEK SMITH: What is Hoosier National Forest like? Like, what does it look like?

CARNELL: You look it up on Google Maps, it's a big green blob. And most of that...

VANEK SMITH: (Laughter).

CARNELL: ...Pretty much is just a big green stripe that kind of goes through the central part of the state.

VANEK SMITH: So in real life, IRL, John says Hoosier National Forest is just beautiful.

GARCIA: Not a green blob.

VANEK SMITH: Not a green blob. It is rolling hills, oak trees, beech trees, maple trees - a lot of wildlife.

CARNELL: A lot of deer, pretty healthy turkey population.

VANEK SMITH: Really, wild turkeys? I like those.

CARNELL: Yeah. Yeah, there's a fair amount of wild turkeys, good beaver populations as well.

GARCIA: John loves his job - working with people, being outside, a lot of trail maintenance, monitoring different species on the land. Everything was going great until 35 days ago, when John's supervisor called him up and said, you got to stay home. The government has shut down, and you're not going to be paid for a while.

VANEK SMITH: Today, though, just a couple of hours ago, President Donald Trump gathered reporters in the White House Rose Garden to announce the shutdown had ended.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government.

GARCIA: The government is reopening - well, maybe only for a little while.


TRUMP: In a short while, I will sign a bill to open our government for three weeks until February 15.


VANEK SMITH: And I'm Stacey Vanek Smith. Today's indicator is 35. That is the number of days that more than 800,000 federal workers like John Carnell have not been getting paychecks. It's been the longest shutdown in the country's history.

GARCIA: Today on the show, we talked to John about what the shutdown has meant to him and for national forests and parks and also how he feels about the end of the shutdown.


GARCIA: John Carnell says that when the shutdown first happened, he was not worried.

CARNELL: But I'd lived through shutdowns before, you know, a week or two. And I really didn't worry about it much. I was just kind of enjoying - hoping to enjoy my Christmas holiday. But once it hit that 21-day mark, the length that the Clinton-Gingrich shutdown had happened for, that's when I knew, like, this is kind of looking a bit serious.

VANEK SMITH: You have - I guess it's two paychecks probably you haven't gotten.

CARNELL: It'll be two. I've gotten by just by eating away at my savings.

GARCIA: John said he was going to be OK for February, then after that, it was going to get really tough for him. So he started having trouble sleeping. But he does admit he's in much better shape than a lot of other people. Tens of thousands of John's fellow federal employees have filed for unemployment benefits and food stamps in the last 35 days.

VANEK SMITH: People have been having trouble affording prescriptions, making rent or mortgage payments. Federal workers started visiting soup kitchens and food banks.

GARCIA: Eight hundred thousand people not getting paid can also be a big deal for the economy as a whole. The White House had warned that quarterly economic growth would be reduced because of the shutdown.

VANEK SMITH: In addition to money troubles, though, John says he was just really bored and restless. So he started reading a lot, spending a lot of time at the gym. But mostly, he says, he was just kind of climbing the walls.

CARNELL: That's a month that I haven't gotten - been able to do my job. So kind of waking up in the morning and not really knowing what to do with my day's been frustrating.

GARCIA: John says he was reading a bunch of reports about what was happening in the unmanned national forests and parks, and it was making him crazy. He tried to volunteer in the forest, but he says the volunteers couldn't go in because of liability worries.

CARNELL: And obviously reading about some of the stuff in the national parks.

VANEK SMITH: I know, Joshua Tree. They're cutting down Joshua trees. That broke my heart.

CARNELL: Oh, yeah. For sure. No. And it got me very upset too because you'd, like - what we've heard about in Joshua Tree and Yosemite and trash piling up and ATV activity and all of that stuff, that will take a little bit of time to kind of play catch up on. But I think that most of us that work within this job, we've been sitting around long enough that we're, like, itching and ready to go and make up for lost time.

GARCIA: But John says he's going to keep pinching pennies for now. First, he says, because he thinks the backpay he's owed could take a little while to get, but also because he's not sure how long the end of the shutdown will actually last.

CARNELL: Thing is, it's a temporary resolution. I mean, we could be back in the same position in three weeks for all that we know. So definitely going to keep more money in my savings account just in case of another situation happens like this, whether it's in three weeks or three years. That's kind of the risk, I guess, I kind of have to account for.

VANEK SMITH: Does this make you rethink working for the federal government?

CARNELL: No. I mean, working for the federal government, I think, it's great and wonderful. And they're good jobs for most people that have them. The pros that we get out of the job definitely outweigh the cons that come from it.

VANEK SMITH: OK. OK. Are you - do you think you'll sleep a little better this weekend knowing that money is at least - check's at least in the mail and...

CARNELL: Yeah. I mean, I'll sleep better, yes, but soundly, no.

VANEK SMITH: (Laughter) What will make you sleep soundly?

CARNELL: Knowing that I'll at least have - the government will be funded and I can continue to work without interruption for at least a while longer.

VANEK SMITH: Today's episode was produced by Constanza Gallardo. Our intern is Willow Ruben (ph). We're edited by Paddy Hirsch. And we're a production of NPR.

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