San Jose may give TSA workers paychecks until gov't shutdown ends

A loan program that would alleviate the financial strain of some federal workers at Mineta San Jose International Airport during the government shutdown was was unanimously endorsed by City Council on Wednesday. 

Mayor Sam Liccardo tweeted about the special meeting about the short-term federal loan program to allow the City of San Jose may step in, and provide paychecks to TSA workers until the impasse is over.

With the partial government shutdown now in its 26th day, airport officials said absentee rates are up from three to 14 percent, and there is worry operations and the flying public could be harmed if the trend continues.

“We’ve not had dramatic effects yet. But we are concerned that may change as we go forward with a three-day weekend ahead, when we see an uptick in passengers traveling for leisure,” said San Jose airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes.

Mayor Liccardo convened a special session of the city council, calling this a “moral obligation,” the mayor wants to create a no-interest loan program to provide payroll.

“That would enable employees, federal employees who have missed a paycheck to be able to get through the next month,” said Mayor Liccardo.

Airport revenue would be used to pay the take-home salaries of roughly 500 employees whose jobs are “safety related, and mission critical” to airport operations. That includes TSA screeners and air traffic controllers, about 400 of whom live in San Jose. City officials say they could provide $2.5M a month in pay for the workers, for up to three months.

“Many of these folks live paycheck-to-paycheck. So the fact that they’re deprived of one paycheck is going to hurt them,” said 9th District councilwoman Pam Foley.

Once the affected workers start getting their regular federal paychecks, they’d repay the loans. Many federal credit unions already have such programs in place to help those affected by the shutdown. But those loans usually come with an interest rate, and aren’t available to all impacted workers.

“We know they’re good for it, and we know that there’s gonna be back pay at some point whenever congress and the president reach an agreement. But until then we wanna make sure they stay afloat,” said Mayor Liccardo.

Airport officials say representatives for the furloughed workers appreciate the gesture as they try to make ends meet during a time of economic uncertainty.

“They’re so thankful that somebody cares. That somebody is looking out for their best interests,” said Barnes.

The city can’t appropriate money immediately, but the council is directing city staffers to draw up a proposal to implement the short-term loan program. One of the first steps is identifying where the loan money would come from. The airport has cash reserves that could be one source. Local banks and credit unions would be another. The mayor hopes to get through the legal questions and have the program operational in days not weeks.