Hundreds of federal employees who work at agencies across Arkansas returned to their jobs Thursday, after being furloughed.
Some workers, particularly those who oversee National Park Service sites in the state, had been off the job for 16 days due to the partial government shutdown.
Robin White is superintendent of the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. She says eight of her employees were furloughed, various programs were canceled, and countless visitors missed out on one of Arkansas’s major tourist attractions.
“In one week’s time, we missed anywhere from 250 to 300 visitors, which does not include the 50 to 150 students who usually come as part of school groups,” White said. “The shutdown was a tragedy not only because employees were out of work, but because of the economic impact on this community that relies on tourism. When we were closed, students, especially from rural areas, didn’t get a chance to come in and be exposed to this environment, the Little Rock Nine, and the National Park Service… these were missed opportunities.”
White says several tourists were waiting at the front doors of the Central High Historic Site visitor center Thursday morning to welcome park rangers back to work.
“It feels good to be back… almost like Christmas,” White said. “We love our jobs. We love what we do. We are public servants and it is rewarding to return to work.”
Economic forecasters with S&P say the partial government shutdown, which closed the Central High site and many others across the country, ultimately took $24 billion out of the U.S. economy.