Furloughed worker glad to be back on the job - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Furloughed worker glad to be back on the job

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – Now that the government shutdown has ended, thousands of furloughed workers can finally get back to work and earn their paychecks.

Many federal employees across Northeast Arkansas had no choice but to stay home, and now they're relieved to pick up where they left off 16 days ago.

The University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville, or UACCB, welcomed back its only furloughed staff member Thursday, and she hopes to never be in a situation like this again.

Connie Lawrence claims it felt very good to reopen her office at UACCB for the first time in 16 days.

"When I came in here, I looked around, and I just thought this is where I belong," she said. "This is great. It's good to be at work."

Lawrence said she got a warm welcome back from the students that she serves as the school's SNAP employment and training program coordinator.

"I help students and also people in the community who are recipients of SNAP, food stamps. I help them with their job search," she said. "Several of the students have come by to wish me well and tell me they're glad that I'm back, so that makes me feel like I'm wanted."

She says it was a surprise when she got sent home shortly after coming into work on October 1. Her job, which is funded by the federal food stamps program, was one of the positions placed on furlough.

"I didn't know one day from the next when I would be called back," she said, "so you can't do any long-range planning. So basically I just stayed around the house and got caught up on a few chores."

A mountain of emails, phone messages and reports now await her and likely hundreds of other federal workers in the area. In Jonesboro the employees at the USDA Service Center all went back to work Thursday, too, for the first time in two weeks. A one-day furlough also ended for 23 people at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, which included nine full-time staff members, one full-time faculty member and 13 graduate assistants.

Now that she's back behind her desk, Lawrence hopes she's not forced to leave it again anytime soon.

"I think there's been a lot of backlash from this shutdown," she said, "so I think that possibly cooler heads will meet and make their decisions prior to having to do this again."

"I'm certainly hoping that [the lawmakers] learned from this experience," she added, "and that there will be some kind of an agreement, an accord reached prior to that happening again."

Copyright 2013 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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