An agreement was reached Friday to temporarily reopen the federal government, which will help to alleviate the increasing problems caused by staffing issues at airports across the country.
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York was in direct discussions with the White House Friday over finalizing the language in a deal that will enable Congress to quickly pass spending bills that President Donald Trump will sign to restore normal operations at a series of federal agencies that have been shuttered for five weeks and begin payments to 800,000 federal workers who have been furloughed or forced to work without receiving paychecks. Issues over backpay will still need to be resolved.
The deal, which was announced shortly after 2 p.m. EST, includes the current level of fencing and wall repair money ($1.3 billion for the year). Lawmakers will have three weeks to reach an agreement that addresses Trump’s request for funding a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The impact of the partial government shutdown reached new levels Friday as flights at New York and Philadelphia airports were delayed due to insufficient air traffic control staffing, affecting travel plans for planners and other working professionals.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a statement indicating that a slight increase in employees calling in sick at LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and Newark International Airport (EWR) and Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). Flights into the three airports were delayed by an average of 41 minutes Friday morning, according to the FAA. Flights departing from Philadelphia and Newark were delayed between one hour and one hour and 15 minutes, and LaGuardia departures were delayed between 15 and 30 minutes.
The delays were caused by safety issues: Unions representing air traffic controllers, pilots and flight attendants issued an urgent warning that the government shutdown, which has lasted nearly five weeks, is causing serious concerns for the United States’ air travel system. Besides staffing shortages due to federal employees being furloughed and calling in sick, those who are working are experiencing stress.
“You cannot continue to operate a system this complex for this long without the support structure of the people that are furloughed,” Trish Gilbert, executive vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association told CNN. “We are already short-staffed. Now, you have added the stress to air traffic controllers and their personal circumstances, and they’re not sleeping at night. We are concerned that they are not fit for duty.”
Two competing measures to end the partial shutdown fell short in the Senate on Thursday. A bill backed by Trump to end the shutdown by funding the wall and a separate bill supported by Democrats to reopen shuttered agencies without such funding didn’t get the votes required to advance.