PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Federal workers in South Florida are anxious to get back to work after 35 days of uncertainty. For those employees who have continued to work, but without a paycheck, they are now looking forward to paying bills.
Government-issued phones are now being turned back on after weeks of sitting idle.
“We couldn’t use our government devices, our government email or government computers,” said NTFU chapter 93 union president Donna McGowan.
Instead, McGowan set up a makeshift headquarters in her Port St. Lucie home to help other IRS employees get through each day.
“The rollercoaster, the up and down of okay we are going back no we aren’t, yes we are, it’s been tough it’s been very tough,” said McGowan.
For the past 5 weeks, it’s also been extremely tiresome for TSA workers.
“I feel like they are opening it to get us that pay, because 800,000 federal employees with no pay, that’s not good for representing the U.S.,” said TSA employee Brian Basil.
Hours before the short-term deal was reached, the shutdown escalated.
Thousands of travelers dealt with delays and cancellations after a number of air traffic controllers called in sick. By Friday afternoon more than a dozen flights between PBIA and LaGuardia airport were delayed.
“I got here early my flights supposed to be 5:30 now it’s 6:30 so I’m here I figure I’d rather be here so I can get out of here,” said airline passenger David Cotter.
But for those who live and work in South Florida, President Trump’s announcement is a relief to federal employees and their families. Many had to turn to food pantries and the kindness of their neighbors to make it through.
“We are grateful to be able to get our paychecks back, you know we are here to serve the public so it’s a good thing, today is a good day,” said McGowan.
McGowan says she’s still waiting to hear from the national office about when employees can officially head back to the IRS offices in West Palm Beach and Port St. Lucie. In the meantime, she remains hopeful IRS employees will receive their first paycheck of 2019 sometime in the 5 days.
“I’ve been cleaning up my little command center here with my posters and my receipts and all of that stuff to get things back into gear for Monday,” said McGowan.
McGowan and the hundreds of other federal workers in South Florida remain cautiously optimistic about their situation and any final decision to be made in the next 3 weeks in Washington, D.C.