- Published: September 26, 2019
As another government shutdown looms when federal funding runs out on September 30, the Partnership for Public Service has issued a new report examining the costs and lingering effects of the 35-day partial shutdown earlier this year.
Although the House of Representatives has passed a continuing resolution (CR) that would keep government funding at current levels through November 21, which the Senate is expected to approve the measure and send to the president, federal employees could again be facing a government shutdown the week before Thanksgiving if Congress can’t act by the time the CR expires.
The Partnership’s report, “Shutdown Letdown: How the Longest Shutdown in U.S. History Did Lasting Damage to Our Government and the People It Serves,” contains four case studies presented to Congress.
The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS), AFL-CIO, is cited in two of the studies: on aviation and federal recruitment. PASS represents over 11,000 employees of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Defense. It is the only FAA employee representative cited in the report.
“We explored the shutdown’s impact on small businesses through the eyes of craft breweries, that suffered economic hardship, and through the experience of taxpayers left in limbo with the Internal Revenue Service and its employees unable to help. We examined the negative effect on federal recruitment, hiring and retention at several federal agencies, and detailed how the shutdown threatened the government’s ability to ensure safe and reliable air travel,” writes the Partnership.
The study on aviation, “The 35-Day Shutdown Sent Shockwaves Through the U.S. Aviation System,” examines the wide-ranging impacts the shutdown had on the nation’s air traffic control system and the dedicated public servants who operate it. “The rollouts of new industry products and services were thrown into turmoil without FAA safety inspectors on hand to make ‘go or no-go’ decisions. The government’s investigations of fatal aircraft accidents were put on hold. Complex safety upgrades were thrown off schedule,” reports the Partnership. Aviation safety inspectors are represented by PASS, as are thousands of technical operations employees who must receive specialized training in order to install and maintain equipment and systems critical to aviation safety. However, when the shutdown began, the FAA’s training academy in Oklahoma City was shuttered, furloughing more than 1,000 employees and putting a halt to all training, while the employees worked without pay.
The shutdown took a toll on the FAA workforce, PASS National President Mike Perrone told the Partnership. “These are highly professional people,” he said. “They are thinking about doing their job, but in the back of their minds they are thinking about paying the bills.”
A survey conducted by PASS in January, not long after the shutdown began, asked the union’s members about the impact the funding crisis was having on them personally and professionally. It is also cited by the Partnership, noting that PASS members reported low morale and that they were experiencing financial and emotional distress. “Our members felt unappreciated and expendable,” PASS told the Partnership.
The report concludes with what PASS members and all federal employees understand: the effects of the 35-day partial government shutdown still linger and until Congress acts in a bipartisan manner to fully fund the federal government, “the threat of ‘the next time’ remains.”