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WBAL-TV: Federal employees in Baltimore remain uncertain

BALTIMORE — Monday is the first day back to work for thousands of federal employees in Maryland who have been out of work for 35 days.

But from leaders in Annapolis to Internal Revenue Service workers in downtown Baltimore, an end to the shutdown does not mean an end to the uncertainty.

The gates to Fort McHenry are back open and the federal building in downtown Baltimore is buzzing at lunchtime again.

"Yeah, it has been very quiet. Very few visitors and stuff like that," said Douglas Willyerd, who works at the federal building.

Visitors and impacted workers returned Monday to the Fallon Federal Building, where the offices of the IRS were reopened. The agency's furloughed employees were on the job Monday, and some told 11 News they've been ordered not to talk about the shutdown.

"Our systems are very sensitive. So to go dormant that long, you have to bring up a lot of computer systems, and some things work, some things don't talk to each other. So it's going to take a little while to get things back to running," an IRS employee anonymously told 11 News.

According to Washington, it's also going to take time for paychecks to go out -- probably not until Thursday for an estimated 150,000 federal workers in Maryland. But that's too long and too vague, Maryland's two U.S. senators wrote in a bipartisan letter to the Office of Personnel Management to provide back pay ASAP.

Now that the longest government shutdown in history is finally over, the Trump Administration needs to provide back pay to federal workers as soon as possible. We just sent a bipartisan letter to @Weichert45 to make sure there’s no further delay.

Other workers said uncertainty remains.

"We don't know, because this is the first day. It could be chaos. I hope not, but we'll find out," said Jennifer Cortes, an immigration attorney.

State agencies continue collecting food and gas cards for impacted federal workers, and the Maryland Department of Transportation is still offering free transit through close of business Friday.

"We're doing that because people still have not received their paycheck, and they still are having difficulty putting food on the table, and they still need that help while they're waiting to get these things processed," Gov. Larry Hogan said.

Back pay won't be an instant fix for the state's economy, which already took a $1 billion hit during the shutdown. Comptroller Peter Franchot said he's bracing for residual economic damage.

"The shock to our consumers is going to be long-lasting. So even when they get repaid, the ones who will be repaid, they're not going to spend that money because they're scared," Franchot said. "We are, unlike every other state in the country, we are inextricably tied to the federal government, joined at the hip. So, when they catch a cold, we get the flu."

The comptroller said 70 percent of Maryland's economy is consumer spending -- money that wasn't being spent by furloughed workers during the shutdown, and money that most likely won't be spent in fear of another shutdown in three weeks.

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