Lawmakers in DC may have found a temporary solution to the debt crisis, but politicians in the US Senate didn’t bother to resolve another major issue within the Federal Aviation Administration this week.
As a result, 4,000 employees of the FAA will remain jobless.
Thousands of FAA workers have gone jobless since a partial agency shutdown began on July 23. The Senate’s failure to approve a bill temporarily funding the Administration on Tuesday now means that those thousands of FAA employees will continue to stay at home until at least Labor Day, experts say.
As of Tuesday, both the House and Senate are on summer recess.
The government is asking dozens of airport inspectors to work pro bono and put their travel expenses on their own personal credit cards in the meantime, as while those laid off last month continue to be jobless. The 4,000 recently unemployed include researchers that keep airports up-to-code with federal regulations, runway safety action teams and other staff. Tens of thousands of construction workers participating in airport projects across the US are also being affected by the crisis.
The New York Times reports that the government stands to lose around $1 billion in tax revenues from ticket sales if the furlough continues through September and the number of flights is shortened.
Air traffic controllers and airplane inspectors are compensated through separate accounts and are not being directly affected by the cuts. With those lucky few still receiving paychecks, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that “no safety issues will be compromised.”
“Flying is safe. Air traffic controllers are guiding airplanes. Safety inspectors are on duty and are doing their job. No one needs to worry about safety,” Mr. LaHood said in a conference call to reporters.
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt added that the agency would rely on the “professionalism” of airport safety inspectors to work the jobs of their unemployed co-workers, sans pay, until Congressional authorization will compensate them.
The average inspector travels to upwards of five airports in any given two week period, each of which they will be responsible for funding on their own. “The reason they are out on the job is because of the risk to operational safety or life and property,” adds Babbitt.