San Jose city leaders on Wednesday unanimously approved a proposal to pay federal workers at Mineta San Jose International Airport while they work without pay from the federal government.
During a special meeting, the City Council voted to move forward with a plan to offer each TSA employee a no-interest loan of $5,000, to be paid back after the workers themselves get paid.
"We simply can’t afford the dysfunction of Washington, D.C., to interfere with the operations of our airport," Mayor Sam Liccardo said. "We’ve got a lot of San Jose residents who have to feed their families."
About 500 airport workers missed their paycheck last week due to the more than three-week shutdown.
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, Liccardo said Tuesday there was 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 proposed using airport funds to provide the short-term, interest-free loans to the federal workers, which also include customs inspectors and air traffic controllers.
"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.