- The Washington Times - Friday, January 25, 2019

President Trump’s push to temporarily reopen the government with Congress may be good news for Washington, but federal employees and businesses said Friday they’ll continue to pick up the pieces after the longest shutdown in history.

The American Federation of Government Employees, a major labor union, urged any federal worker who toiled during the shutdown to join a pending lawsuit that would ensure full back-pay, plus damages equal to minimum wage for hours worked and the full value of any overtime.

“While the agreement reached by the White House and Congress will put employees back to work temporarily and allow them to start getting paid, we will not stop fighting until we have full-year funding approved for all our agencies and until all employees are made whole for the income they have lost,” said J. David Cox Sr., AFGE national president.

The Small Business Majority, a network of 58,000 small businesses, said they’re relieved by the deal but that firms face a long recovery.

Loan applications sent to the U.S. Small Business Administration were put on hold, businesses that contract with the government haven’t been paid and firms that cater to federal employees lost sales.

The group said any blip in earnings is an “existential blow” to small businesses — and they may not recover anytime soon.

“While small businesses may benefit from an agreement that will temporarily reopen the entire federal government, it’s an inescapable fact that the partial government shutdown inflicted substantial damage on America’s small firms,” said founder and CEO John Arensmeyer.

Rep. T.J. Cox, a Democrat from central California, said the effects of the shutdown “will be felt for years to come,” citing constituents who rationed health care and made painful financial tradeoffs.

The decision to reopen the government should, however, forestall deeper pain, such as a rocky tax-filing season at the IRS or serious belt-tightening in the federal courts.

In the weeks ahead, those same courts will have to sort through pending lawsuits from workers who posed thorny questions about how federal agencies should treat their workers amid a shutdown.

Friday’s pact “comes as a great relief to our clients, who were severely impacted by the loss of an entire month’s income, that they will be getting paid for their time and devotion to their jobs,” said Michael Kator, a lawyer representing four federal employees who sued for agency permission to stay home without being declared “AWOL” or pursue paying side gigs.

“Insofar as the lawsuit is concerned, however, they intend to proceed and seek to get a final ruling on the merits so that, perhaps, they will never be in this position again,” Mr. Kator said.

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