State workers furloughed because of federal shutdown returning to work

LITTLE ROCK — The nearly 600 state workers furloughed because of the 16-day federal government shutdown are returning to work, state officials said Thursday.

Gov. Mike Beebe said the state employees, who are paid partially or fully with federal funds, were notified early Thursday morning after Congress agreed to a bill to reopen the budget and avert a default. Measure was later signed by President Obama.

Tim Leathers, deputy director of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, said he wasn’t sure how many of the nearly 600 state employees returned to work Thursday.

“We won’t know for a while,” he said, adding an e-mail was sent notifying employees that the shutdown had ended “in the wee hours of (Thursday) morning.

The governor expressed disappointment with the inability of Congress to get things done.

“I’m just disgusted with them as I think the people are,” Beebe told reporters after a news conference in the Governor’s Conference Room to announce a new state highway commissioner.

“Now they’ve given themselves a two or three month reprieve,” he said. “Now is the time for them to sit down and act like adults and work on lowering the deficit, and work on the serious decisions that need to be made, come together without the pressure of an axe falling on their head and do it now in a calm and rational manner, and don’t put the American people through this again.”

State Department of Human Services Director John Selig said at one point about 250 DHS were furloughed but that was reduced to about 65 as agency heads were able to shuffle funds around to cover some of the salary costs. The furloughs also caused the Arkansas National Guard to cancel weekend training for October, affected more than 10,000 Guard personnel across the state.