“Oh, my gosh, it is such a relief to be back to work.”
Information officer Julie Speegle is one of about 111 NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Office employees back at their desks in Juneau’s federal building. About 125 at the Auke Bay lab are also working, now that Congress has reached a deal to end the partial government shutdown. The Alaska Regional division has offices from Seattle to the Pribilof Islands, employing more than 500. Most have been on furlough.
Speegle says NOAA Fisheries’ top priority in Alaska for the first day back is getting permits to about 80 crab vessels stuck in Dutch Harbor.
Oct. 15th was the first day of the crab fishery, but without a federal permit, the boats couldn’t fish.
“We have staff working very hard to get those out and we hope to have them issued by the end of the day tomorrow,” Speegle says.
According to the state Labor Department, the federal government employs about 5 percent of Alaska’s workforce in both military and civilian jobs. The U.S. Forest Service is one of the largest federal employers in Southeast Alaska, with about 400 workers; 50 in Juneau offices. They’re also back to work.
Federal workers who were furloughed or worked without pay during the shutdown will get back pay in their next paychecks, which for most employees will come on Oct. 29th.
The timeline announced by the government Thursday means workers will have to wait nearly two weeks to recover back wages. The National Treasury Employees Union says is asking agencies to issue retroactive paychecks next week.
Federal workers are slated to get a 1 percent pay raise in January, the first increase since salaries were frozen in 2010. The legislation opening the government keeps on track the plan for the raises laid out earlier this year by the Obama administration.
- Proponents of repealing the Affordable Care Act revealed yet another new bill Monday, with changes that appear designed to win the vote of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, one of three Republicans who killed the last repeal bill.
- Dozens of helicopter pilots and maintenance personnel from Alaska’s Air National Guard are heading overseas to combat the Islamic State.
- The First Alaskans Institute has announced the keynote speakers for the 2017 the 34th Elders and Youth Conference, which begins Oct. 16, just ahead of the Alaska Federation of Natives in Anchorage.
- The group traveled through at least 12 time zones to reach the Russian community of Kadom, which was the home and birthplace of Saint Herman of Alaska.