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Measured relief greets temporary shutdown reprieve in Minn.

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Loaves and Fishes executive director Cathy Maes helps prepare meals.
Loaves and Fishes executive director Cathy Maes (right) helps prepare meals on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, for 150 airport workers affected by the government shutdown.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

The deal to end the partial federal government shutdown temporarily is welcome news to hundreds of thousands of workers who've gone without pay for over a month. It is also good news for people who've been indirectly affected by the standoff. 

Hours before President Trump announced the agreement in the Rose Garden of the White House Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily restricted flights because of a "slight increase in sick leave" at two East Coast air traffic control facilities.

There have also been reports of long waits in airport security lines in some parts of the country. 

Not so here, according to government, airport and airline officials. Nonetheless, the president of the union locally representing Transportation Security Administration employees welcomed news of a deal to end the shutdown — even if it's temporary. After a second payday with no checks, Celia Hahn said workers really need income, even if they're only guaranteed to get it for a few weeks. 

"I would like a permanent solution to this impasse. But, you know, if they can open up long enough to pay people and make people whole for a little while, that's a good second alternative," Hahn said.

In the heart of downtown Minneapolis, Bob Gardner, founder of Gardner Builders, said the shutdown has slowed progress as he and his crews remodel the old Dayton's store into modern office and retail space.

Bob Gardner, founder of Gardner Builders
Bob Gardner, founder of Gardner Builders, says the shutdown slowed him down as he and his crews of employees and subcontractors work to turn the old Dayton's store into modern office space with shops and a top-end food hall.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

"Historical Tax Credits" are helping to finance the 1.3-million-square-foot project. But various aspects of the design require the National Park Service's approval.  Gardner said the shutdown brought that process to a halt. 

"The design process and the design approval waits until the National Park Services opens up. They're not receiving mail; they're not receiving phone calls; they're not receiving email," he said.

Gardner welcomes the agreement to reopen government, but he said it makes him nervous that it's only a temporary, three-week deal. He wants something permanent.

"As businesses, all we want from government is predictability — predictability allows us to do business as usual."

And even if it all gets settled, Gardner said it's going to take time for federal agencies to catch up on all of the work that's been piling up.

"It's like damming a river. You have this big charge of backlog behind the shutdown; when it opens up, the flow is only going to go as quickly as those who can process [them]."

Gardner said he has no idea how much longer he has to wait for processing of his company's approval requests, which means more uncertainty.

Meanwhile, many organizations have been ramping up their services, trying to ease the burden on out-of-pay federal workers — financial institutions offering low-interest loans — the list goes on. 

Minnesota's largest free meal program, "Loaves and Fishes" started bringing food to federal workers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Thursday.

They served about 75 people the first day.

Just hours before news of the deal, cooks were at work in the basement kitchen of a Richfield church making this afternoon's meals. 

Normally Cathy Maes, the organization's executive director, doesn't cook. But she was helping produce the extra meals needed to help feed unpaid workers required to report for duty at the airport. 

"We are making sloppy joes for the workers at Terminal 1. Then we head to Terminal 2. They will be getting tuna salad sandwiches. They were really happy yesterday," Maes said Friday.

She recalled the reaction of one TSA worker at Terminal 2. 

Hannah Litfin (left) and Rachel Friesen prepare hot meals.
Hannah Litfin (left) and Rachel Friesen prepare hot meals on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, at Hope Presybterian Church in Richfield, Minn. Loaves and Fishes prepared 150 meals for airport workers affected by the government shutdown.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

"We had a lovely salad; it was fresh greens, and tomatoes and crispy chicken and cheese," she said. "And I handed it to her and I said, 'We're going to be here tomorrow.' And she looked at the salad and started crying. And she said, 'I just really want to be paid.' And she said the salad meant so much to her."

Correction (Jan. 25, 2019):  In an earlier version of this story, the name of Gardner Builders was misidentified.