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3,700 DOT workers head back to work after Congress passes short-term highway funding

Updated October 2, 2021 at 2:11 PM ET

The Senate on Saturday approved a temporary extension to fund the federal highway program. The move ends temporary furloughs for 3,700 employees at the Department of Transportation.

The furloughs kicked in Friday after the House of Representatives failed to pass the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Before adjourning Friday, the House passed the temporary extension, and the Senate approved the measure Saturday afternoon.

A department spokesperson said agency officials were taking "every step we can to mitigate the impacts of this temporary lapse in authorization."

But the failure to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which House Democrats remain divided over, is still causing frustrations. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials criticized Congress' failure to pass the bill in a statement, calling it "unacceptable."

"Yesterday's inaction on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act isn't just disappointing — it lapses our highway, transit, and highway safety programs and halts work on vital transportation infrastructure around the country," Jim Tymon, the organization's executive director, said.

"We are dealing with very real repercussions," he added. "Thousands of federal employees at USDOT are being furloughed and $50 billion of federal surface transportation programs supported by the Highway Trust Fund are being suspended. This is unacceptable."

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Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.