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Federal employees return to work, parks re-open

Furloughed federal employees returned to work Thursday morning after Congress passed a hard-fought deal to end the partial government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling, as barriers went down at federal memorials and national parks re-opened. 

The government was returning to normal, for now, after 16 days of a partial shutdown. 

Included in the bill signed by President Obama shortly after midnight was a provision to provide back pay for furloughed workers. Many workers received a slimmed-down paycheck this past Friday due to the budget impasse. They're expected to receive the back pay in their next paycheck, which for many is Oct. 29. 

Rep. Jim Moran, R-Va., who represents many federal workers who live in his district, noted thousands of contractors will not be compensated for lost work during the partial shutdown. 

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said overnight that federal agencies have been issued guidance to reopen promptly and in an orderly fashion. Federal workers were encouraged to check OPM's website for additional instructions about returning to work. 

"In the days ahead, we will work closely with departments and agencies to make the transition back to full operating status as smooth as possible," Burwell said in a statement. 

The measure passed by Congress restores funding through Jan. 15 and extends the nation's borrowing authority through Feb. 7. 

Among the sites reopening on Thursday were Gettysburg National Park in Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Capitol visitors center. Hundreds of others across the country were ready to follow suit throughout Thursday. 

"Just to be able to get back to serving the public is so important," said Greg Bettwy as he prepared to return to his job in Washington with the Smithsonian Institution's human resource department. Bettwy said he watched his spending carefully during the shutdown -- choosing store brands at the grocery store and forgoing a trip to see a Penn State football game. 

The Office of Personnel Management announced that workers should return to work on their next regularly scheduled work day -- Thursday for most workers. Nationwide, hundreds of thousands of workers have been furloughed since the shutdown began Oct. 1. The office encouraged agencies to be flexible for a smooth transition by allowing telework and excused absences in some cases. 

In Washington, the Capitol's visitor center planned to resume tours Thursday, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was reopening, and the Smithsonian -- overseer of many of Washington's major museums -- proclaimed on Twitter, "We're back from the (hashtag)shutdown!" The National Zoo was set to reopen Friday, though its popular panda cam was expected to be back online Thursday. 

Senate Sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer sent a message to employees late Wednesday informing them they should plan to return to work Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.