A bipartisan agreement was reached on Thursday to resume funding of the Federal Aviation Administration and President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on Friday.
An estimated 74,000 workers, which consisted of 4,000 furloughed FAA workers and another 70,000 people who were working on construction projects, had lost their jobs and the United States lost hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue over the past week after Congress failed to pass a bill that would fund the FAA. On Thursday, the Senate reached a compromise with the House of Representatives and passed the House bill by unanimous consent. The bill extended the FAA’s operating authority through mid-September.
The causes of the shutdown were cuts to federal subsidies for flight service to 13 rural airports and a labor union provision that would have made anybody who did not vote actually be counted as a “no” vote. While Democrats objected to both those provisions, ultimately the two parties agreed to end the subsidies with the stipulation that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood would determine if those subsidies were actually necessary or not at each individual airport – if he decided they were, the subsidies would continue, and if he decided they were not they would end. The labor union provision was left out of this bill, but it is sure to be a contentious issue when the funding extension expires on Sept. 16.
Before President Obama signed the bill into law, he and other Obama administration officials urged Congress to come back to Washington and fund the FAA – the House and Senate are on a five-week recess through August. They said failure to do so would cause 74,000 people to lose their jobs at a time when the country’s jobs outlook already was bleak. They also said the shutdown would lead to improvement and construction projects at airports throughout the country being halted.
The Press-Enterprise reported that the San Bernardino International Airport was one such place that the impasse had hurt. The airport’s Aviation Director Bill Ingraham said workers finished a $1.8 million project to replace lights along the runways earlier this year, but it could not be closed out and officially dubbed completed until FAA officials returned to work. He said he was waiting on the agency’s response to a $29,000 change to the project.
“Until the FAA approves it, I cannot be reimbursed for my expense,” he said in the article. “Those are the very people who have been gone.”
The San Bernardino Sun also reported that the Barstow-Daggett Airport had to stop a $2.5 million project to improve lighting, grading and taxiways. Mike Williams, director of the San Bernardino County Department of Airports, said in the article that the construction would have created jobs in the “low hundreds” for the area.
“This will have some impact on the economy, considering that those employees, even if they aren’t living in Barstow, they can go to Barstow, purchase gasoline in Barstow and go to local stores,” he said.
With the president signing the month-long funding bill into law on Friday, those projects can now continue and workers will be able to report to work on Monday.
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