SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo called a special meeting of the city council Wednesday afternoon to propose implementing a short-term, no-interest loan program for furloughed employees at San Jose Mineta International Airport.
The longest government shutdown in U.S. history is now entering its fourth week. Vital workers such as air traffic controllers, TSA security workers and Customs officers are all without pay for the time being.
"We really commend Mayor Liccardo and the city for reaching out," said TSA employee Carolyn Bauer. "I mean, he flies through that airport, he waits in the lines, he doesn't use first class, you know. This is his airport and it makes me feel special."
Bauer is among the 500 furloughed employees at Mineta. She said she has considered borrowing money from her teenage son just to get by while she doesn't receive a paycheck. Meanwhile, she said her debt is growing.
The absence of so many workers creates problems for the daily operations of a busy airport. Miami International Airport has had to close one terminal early every day since the furlough began.
"We are going to do everything in our power to keep political dysfunction in Washington from creating service disruptions or safety issues here in San Jose," said Liccardo.
"Mineta San Jose International Airport is vital to our local economy and we need our highly-skilled and trained federal workers there to keep it running smoothly. That's why we are exploring tools, like these local bridge loans, to help keep these essential workers on the job."
"The impact has been particularly noticeable in the airport's TSA operations, which employs 400 individuals, about half of whom are also San Jose residents. Since the shutdown, the daily absence rate has increased from 3% to 14%," said officials in a statement.
Liccardo's proposed program would match monthly take-home pay and the loans would be repaid upon employees' receipt of back pay. Safety-related, mission-critical employees at the airport would be eligible for the program.
Bauer said despite knowing that she is working for free, she shows up everyday because she feels it's her duty to protect the passengers who trust her to keep them safe.
"I look at the big picture and say, 'I have to do this,' you know. I have to work," she said. "I have to help make sure that every passenger who gets on those planes gets from here to their destination safely."
The program would potentially be funded through the airport's revenues and administered through a partnership with other financial institutions.
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