Furloughed worker glad to be back on the job

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

Many federal employees across Northeast Arkansas had nochoice but to stay home, and now they're relieved to pick up where they leftoff 16 days ago.

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

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

"When I came in here, I looked around, and I just thoughtthis 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 studentsthat she serves as the school's SNAP employment and training program coordinator.

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

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

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

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

Now that she's back behind her desk, Lawrence hopes she'snot 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 theirdecisions prior to having to do this again."

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

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