Funding for local workers, programs flowing again

Staff reportOctober 18, 2013 

What ending the shutdown of the federal government meant in Washington state:

BACK PAY

State workers who had been laid off because they are paid with federal funds returned to work Thursday and are assured back pay.

More than 830 workers at the Employment Security Department were furloughed or put on part-time status after the shutdown. About 75 workers at the state Military Department also were on part-time status.

Before Wednesday, the state was not certain that furloughed workers could be repaid for their lost time because they hadn’t worked and the state constitution prohibits gifts of state resources.

But language in the federal budget and debt-limit bill provides for state employees to receive back pay, just as idled federal workers will.

Although Employment Security workers are back on the job, it might be awhile before some of its routine reports are completed. For example, the undone work includes the calculation of unemployment figures for September.

Other state agencies that had been bracing for impacts were relieved by the end of the shutdown.

The Department of Early Learning had preparing to notify 24,000 low-income working families that child-care subsidies from the Working Connections program would be cut off at month’s end. The Department of Social and Health Services also had been mulling when to notify nearly 600,000 people who rely on federal funds for food help each month in Washington.

NATIONAL PARKS

Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks, along with other federal lands, reopened Thursday.

The gates at Mount Rainier’s Nisqually entrance opened about 9 a.m., said superintendent Randy King. One car was at the gate when the park opened and nearly two dozen vehicles arrived at Paradise by midafternoon.

Melinda Simpson, operations manager for Mount Rainier Guest Services, which runs concessions at the park, was busy Thursday calling staff members to return to work. The Longmire Gift Shop reopened Thursday and the motel and restaurant will open Friday.

“I can’t tell you how much joy there is in reopening operations, seeing guests return and having staff come back,” Simpson said.

Staffing levels went from 170 before the shutdown to 12 earlier this week.

At Olympic National Park, all park roads, trails and facilities normally open at this time of year were reopened Thursday, superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said

Crews worked during the morning to clear snow from the Hurricane Ridge Road, where sizable drifts built up at some of the higher elevations. The road will reopen as soon as safely possible.

At the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge near Lacey, there was a steady stream of visitors hiking the trails and bird-watching.

Staff writers Brad Shannon and Jeffrey P. Mayor contributed to this report.

The Olympian is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service