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Furloughed Employees Head Back To Work After Shutdown Ends

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Thousands of Minnesota’s federal employees who’ve been furloughed during the government shutdown are back on the job.

There’s relief but also frustration — with 18,000 local government employees, some were furloughed and all went without a paycheck.

Offices and programs providing federal services, affected by the shutdown, reopened Thursday morning for the first time in 16 days.

Visitors can now head into Voyaguers National Park in the BWCA, potential homeowners waiting for a FHA loan can now get approval and the wait is over for anyone needing a passport or social security card.

At the Minnesota Social Security office in Minneapolis, those needing to replace or get a new social security card will almost always find people lined up outside.

However, Thursday morning, that line began much earlier than normal and stretched out the door. And those in line were not happy about what happened.

“I couldn’t go searching for jobs or anything like that. Couldn’t put in any applications,” said Quentin Rogers of St. Paul.

The Social Security office was considered non-essential during the shutdown. But, for the dozens who showed up before the building opened, that card is incredibly important.

For Willie Jones, it means the difference of whether this Kentucky native will get a new job.

“I just came to Minnesota, but, you know, you need, I needed to get my social security card and it just so happens I came here on the 29th. The first day I came here, it was shut down,” he said.

Shay Martin also arrived early, hoping to get replacement social security cards for her kids.

“I’m trying to move out of state on the first, so, I need to get all my stuff put together. With it being closed I had to wait, anyway, so, it’s inconvenient,” she said.

The 16-day shutdown did have an impact on some Minnesotans, but not as much as other states.

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who helped broker a deal to end the shutdown, said voters are so fed up with Washington, future shutdowns could be political poison.

“The difference now is that we have an American public that says, ‘I’ve had it. This is the last straw,’” she said. “When you look at the numbers, when you look at what’s going on with the sentiments of people, I think that is a sea change.”

Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann was the only Minnesota politician to vote “no” and said, in Washington, she’s proud of the fight.

“We’re doing exactly the right thing,” she said. “We’re choosing the right areas to advocate for the people of the country and we’ll continue to do that.”

Willie Jones hopes that’s not true. He’s trying to get a job as a Salvation Army holiday bell ringer.

“Tell you the truth? I could have got a job if I had my social security card,” he said.

Klobuchar was part of a group of women Senators from both parties who brokered what became “The Deal” to end the shutdown.

Klobuchar said those Senators want to use that momentum to pivot to other issues immediately, including immigration reform and the farm bill.

Many social services went on uninterrupted. In many cases, counties were able to cover the financial difference on programs like food stamps.

Minnesota takes in fewer federal dollars than most states in the country.

Minnesota’s federal employees were all ordered back to work on Thursday, but it could be a couple of days before the government is up and running. That means it might be next week before you get a phone answered at some agencies like the IRS.

But as you see from people rushing to the Social Security offices, there’s pent-up demand.

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