San Jose considering loan program to help furloughed airport workers

Amanda del Castillo Image
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
San Jose will consider loan program to help furloughed airport workers
For roughly 500 federal workers at the San Jose International Airport, it is all work and no pay.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- For roughly 500 federal workers at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) in San Jose, it is all work and no pay.

"These are all highly skilled, essential workers that are absolutely needed to keep this airport operation going," airport spokesperson Rosemary Barnes told ABC7 News. "And really to help bolster our economy because travel and business are one in the same."

Of the airport's 500 furloughed workers, 400 are Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees. Other federal workers include Customs and Border Patrol officers and Air Traffic Controllers.

RELATED: Government shutdown impact being felt at San Jose airport

Barnes and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo have expressed concern these federal workers may simply stop showing up if they are forced to find other ways to support their families.

Mayor Liccardo said the city won't stand for it.

"We need to do whatever we can to prevent the political dysfunction of Washington D.C. from disrupting the safety and service provided in San Jose, at our airport and other critical city facilities," Liccardo explained.

During a special meeting scheduled for Wednesday, city leaders will look at using airport funds to provide no-interest, short-term loans to the furloughed workers.

A release by Liccardo's office explained he has proposed exploring whether the city could implement the short-term loan program for SJC's essential federal workers along the following parameters:

  1. The program would provide an amount equal to monthly take-home pay.
  2. Loans would be repaid without interest upon the employee's receipt of back pay.
  3. All safety related, mission-critical federal employees at the airport would be eligible to participate, including FAA air traffic controllers, TSA passenger screeners, and customs officers.
  4. The city would explore funding the program through airport revenues, and administering the program in partnership with one or more financial institutions.

"We've been in conversation with some private sector banks as well, to see if they can help," Liccardo explained. "We know that there are credit unions and others that are stepping up."

RELATED: Pilots worry national shortage puts passengers in danger

However, the mayor's office explained that while some credit unions and banks are offering assistance for federal employees, many of these loan programs have low limits, varying interest rates and are only available to existing members.

"We want to offer something that is zero-interest to enable very easy access for those workers who are struggling," he said.

The Mayor's proposal can be found here.

The partial government shutdown is in its fourth week.

"Nobody can really predict how that might impact the morale of the federal employees," Barnes with SJC said. "But, bless their hearts, they continue to show up and keep our operation going."

Since the partial shutdown, the daily absence rate at the airport has gone up from 3-percent to 14-percent according to the city.

RELATED: Bay Area residents getting creative to make ends meet during government shutdown

Across the U.S., enough TSA agents are skipping work to force closures of security checkpoints. Impact to airport operations elsewhere has created long lines and even longer delays.

In Miami, an entire terminal had to be shut down.

"We are monitoring what's happening around the nation," Barnes explained. "We are concerned about the upcoming three-day, MLK weekend."

Barnes said SJC is encouraging travelers to be part of the solution. The airport suggests domestic travelers arrive two hours ahead of takeoff. International travelers should arrive three hours early.

Take a look at more stories and videos on the Government Shutdown.