House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leaders have reintroduced a measure to shield the FAA from the effects of federal government shutdowns. Offered by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), aviation subcommittee chairman Rick Larsen (D-Washington), and Reps. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania), the Aviation Funding Stability Act of 2021 would enable the FAA to continue to draw from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) and maintain operations for up to 30 days without congressional action should the federal government shut down due to a budget lapse.
This would protect FAA programs and personnel, the bill managers say, avoiding a situation like the one resulting from the 2018/2019 federal government shutdown, which led to the furlough of about 17,000 agency employees, accounting for approximately 40 percent of the agency. Meanwhile, the remaining employees, including air traffic controllers, continued to work without pay. DeFazio and Larsen first introduced legislation to protect that from happening again in early 2019, shortly after the historic 35-day shutdown ended.
The latest bill has garnered endorsements from more than 30 aviation organizations and unions, including most of the major associations. Lawmakers call the legislation necessary for protecting public safety.
“The U.S. has the safest and most efficient aviation system in the entire world," DeFazio said in introducing the legislation. "The system contributes trillions of dollars to our national economy and supports millions of American jobs. We can’t allow for everything to be thrown into chaos in the event of a federal government shutdown. Our bipartisan bill will ensure that the FAA can keep operating without interruption, which is essential to protecting public safety and the livelihoods of aviation workers who keep our country and economy moving.”
Added Larsen: “Enabling the FAA to draw from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund during a funding lapse ensures essential personnel who work under stressful situations continue to get paid, and the largest, busiest and most complex airspace system in the world remains safe and functional for air passengers and crew."