Furloughed EPA employee ready to go back to work

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With a deal reached to temporarily end the shutdown, workers prepare to get back to their jobs.

Jodie Howard is hopeful she'll be going back to work Monday. President Donald Trump signed a bill Friday night ending the government shutdown.

"We've been out for such a long time, and I know my email box is full," said Howard, who has spent 10 years with the Environmental Protection Agency. "I know there are lots of questions from our stakeholders."

Howard has been out of work even longer since she went on vacation before the shutdown began.

"The environment doesn't wait for us to be out of work or in work," she said. "It's continuous and our job again is to protect human health and people like me who have asthma. Our air quality is super important so I'm really glad to be going back."

Howard said most of the 2,500 workers at the EPA's RTP campus have been furloughed since the shutdown began.

"We may be getting back pay, but now we're going to have to catch up on all the work we've missed out on in the past five weeks or so," Howard said.

Dr. Henry McKoy is the director of entrepreneurship at North Carolina Central's School of Business. He said he's worried about the shutdowns long-term impacts on business.

"We certainly know the impact it has had on the average government worker," Dr. McKoy said. "I don't think you can underestimate the effect of losing your paycheck or two paychecks when you're not expecting it. If you are in fear now that the government may shut down at any time, maybe that disposable income you used to spend, maybe you're saving it now? Savings aren't a bad thing but if you save too much and you're not putting money into the economy, that can have broader ripple effects."

Howard said she's grateful for the time she had--she started volunteering at Urban Ministries of Wake County and plans to continue to do so. She even started a prayer group with some of the other employees who were out of work.

"I have taken advantage of this time," she said. "I was able to work in the community and able to do some things I hadn't been able to do."
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politicsgovernment shutdownfurloughsResearch Triangle ParkRaleigh
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