Bay Area Leaders Consider Paying Federal Workers at San Jose Airport During Government Shutdown

TSA personnel, customs inspectors and air traffic controllers missed a paycheck because of the government shutdown

San Jose city leaders will consider paying federal workers at Mineta San Jose International Airport while they work without pay from the federal government.

About 500 airport workers missed their paycheck last week due to the three-week shutdown, and city leaders are poised to help out sooner rather than later, calling a special City Council meeting for Wednesday.

While airport officials say there have been no impacts from the shutdown so far, it’s also been a slow travel period, and they’re keeping an eye on it.

With more passengers expected for the upcoming holiday weekend, Mayor Sam Liccardo says there is a moral obligation to get something done right away.

Sick calls at the airport have spiked recently, from 3 percent to 14 percent.

"We knew we needed to do something because we were starting to hear about the impacts in other cities and other airports," Liccardo said.

Liccardo is proposing using airport funds to provide short-term, interest-free loans to the federal workers, which include Transportation Security Administration personnel, customs inspectors and air traffic controllers. The employees could return the money once their back pay comes in.

"The longer this goes, the more they're going to be struggling," Liccardo said. "And if they have to choose, they're going to need to drive for Uber in order to feed their families, and we cannot put them in that position."

J.T. Lenhart, the Bay Area vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association agreed.

"Air traffic controllers have to be 100 percent, 100 percent of the time," he said. "The last thing we want is to have that financial burden looming over them."

Lenhart too received a zero on his pay stub last week. But he's also worried about safety in the skies during the shutdown. He is appreciative of the mayor’s efforts.

"We'd like to show our gratitude because it's really going to be needed," Lenhart said.

Passengers at SJC were on board with the idea too.

"San Jose is so expensive to live, so I think it's incredible that the city helps out with that," Danielle Ramirez said.

The proposal will be discussed Wednesday afternoon during a special meeting of the City Council.

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