Federal building downtown reopens

Those seeking services finally able to do so

By Kumasi Aaron - Reporter/The Morning Show anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Federal employees were back to work Thursday after the government shutdown ended.

In Jacksonville, that meant people who hadn't been able to get things done for the last 16 days flooded the Charles E. Bennett Federal Building downtown.

The building houses the Department of Labor, Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Internal Revenue Service.

Some people visiting the IRS on Thursday needed to get transcripts and tax statements so they could apply for loans or apply to school.

It was a relief for many of them to finally be able to get the documents they needed.

"Every nation goes through things, and I guess this is something that we had to go through," student Rigoberto Cortes said. "And as people of America, we're just dealing with it. I'm just going through the whole process. I'm like, 'Hey, I'm just glad we're back open.'"

After weeks of waiting, Cortes was finally able to walk inside the Bennett Building and get the paperwork he needs from the IRS for school.

"I'm a new enrolling student, so enrolling requires my tax information," he said. "So I actually have to get a transcript from the federal building to enroll in school, and they were like, 'OK, we need to get this from there,' so I'm waiting, I was waiting for this to open."

Brandon Copely, a graduate student at the University of North Florida, has been doing without the money from loans, unable to get the documents from the IRS to complete his application.

"I get a couple thousand of student loans to help me out, pay for bills and everything else," he said. "It really hurt when it closed down. I couldn't get anything from them for the things that I needed."

Now, he's looking forward to student life post shutdown.

"It'll make a huge difference," Copely said. "I can pay my bills, I can go get some food, put some food on the table. A lot of things I can do now."

People said there were no issues at the federal building Thursday and everything ran smoothly for the most part as there wee enough employees there to handle requests.

Workers who were furloughed are glad to be back. They said it was difficult trying to pay bills without getting paid. But they say they will receive compensation for their work days during the shutdown, though they haven't been told exactly when that money will come.

Michael Hoffer has mixed feelings about returning to work.

"I didn't know until this morning. I thought it was a relief like, you know, show me the money, just don't put us back to work," Hoffer said.

With a missed mortgage payment and another one due soon, not being paid has taken a toll on Hoffer's family.

"Very stressful," he said. "I have two grandkids that live with us. My wife works, but she doesn't get that much pay. It's just been too stressful."

At Fort Caroline, employees caught up on some of the work missed during the shutdown, all to welcome the many visitors happy to see the park back open.

"It means a lot to people like me," park visitor Joe Stewart said. "I'm not really working right now, so you're stuck in the house all day if you're on a disability check or retirement and you have nothing to do. I'm fortunate I have a car so I can get out, but if the places are shut, there's not much to do. So I'm just very happy it's open."

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