Local FAA Workers Heading Back To Work


ATLANTA,None - Congress has reached a bipartisan compromise to end the two-week partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration.

More than 70,000 federal employees and construction workers, including some living in metro Atlanta, will now be going back to work if a Friday vote goes as expected in Washington, D.C.

Among those who celebrated the deal is Neil Bolen, an engineer with the FAA regional office near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

He's been waiting at his home in Peachtree City for two weeks, worried about when the next time he would receive a paycheck.

"It's a political problem that I've been dragged into. I really don't want to be involved in (it). Sadly, it became my fight for two weeks," Bolen told Channel 2 Action News reporter Tony Thomas Thursday afternoon.

Shortly after hearing word of the compromise, Bolen celebrated with his son and friends by baking cookies.

"Alright boys, have a cookie! Yeah, I'm going back to work!"

Bolen has spent 24 years working as an engineer designing radar systems for airports across the Eastern U.S. He never thought he'd have to worry about getting paid as a federal employee. But then politics entered the picture.

"It's not the sort of thing you have to worry about when you're in the federal sector. But then all the sudden you realize Congress didn't get around to getting their stuff done," Bolen said.

The stalemate did not affect airline passengers coming in and out of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Air traffic controllers and safety personel were kept on the job. The government lost $30 million in unpaid taxes that went uncollected.

Bolen and many others feared the stalemate could last weeks. Congress was just about to go on vacation for a month. Bolen said that would have hurt his family's finances deeply.

"The first time we start actually missing money is on the 9th. We get paid on Tuesday," Bolen said.

Bolen hopes Congress included back pay in the deal.

"It wasn't our fault we didn't get to go to work. We were all ready to go, happy to get to work, then all the sudden no," Bolen said as he sat in his living room.

But his celebration could be short lived.

The congressional deal, if approved Friday, extends the FAA funding only through mid-September. Then Congress will have to vote again or Bolen and all those other workers could face going unpaid -- again.

The deal reached in Congress includes a provision that eliminates $16.5 million in air service subsidies to 13 rural communities.

Republicans had insisted on the subsidy cuts as their price for restoring the FAA to full operation. But the cuts may become moot.

The bill includes language that gives the transportation secretary the authority to continue subsidized service to the 13 communities if he decides it's necessary.

Democrats said they expect the administration to effectively waive or negate the cuts.

"I just know that the White House has provided assurances that they (the communities) will be held harmless," said a Senate Democratic leadership aide who asked not to be named because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the deal.

Communities targeted for the proposed air service subsidy cuts include Athens, which, while only about an hour's drive from Atlanta, has air service thanks to the federal subsidized program.

Other cities slated for cuts are Morgantown, W.Va.; Glendive, Mont.; Alamogordo, N.M.; Ely, Nev.; Jamestown, N.Y.; Bradford, Pa.; Hagerstown, Md.; Jonesboro, Ark.; Johnstown, Pa.; Franklin/Oil City, Pa.; Lancaster, Pa.; and Jackson, Tenn.

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