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As FAA Shutdown Continues, Workers Miss Pay, Medical Coverage

The FAA's partial shutdown doesn't affect air traffic controllers (above). But the impasse has left some 47,000 workers without a paycheck.
John Moore
Getty Images
The FAA's partial shutdown doesn't affect air traffic controllers (above). But the impasse has left some 47,000 workers without a paycheck.

The FAA's partial shutdown will be coming up on the two-week mark Saturday, and there's little sign of movement on the issue. Here's a collection of recent developments to keep you updated:

The shutdown doesn't include air traffic controllers. But it has left 4,000 FAA employees, and an additional 70,000 contractors, either furloughed or fired outright.

NPR's Richard Gonzales spoke to Richard Zemlok, an electrician in Oakland, Calif., who was one of those left without a paycheck:

"Our work, our hours on the job relate to our medical payments. My medical is about $1,400 a month, and if I'm not working then that has to be paid by somebody, or else I don't have medical coverage for me and my family," Zemlok says.

But after only a month on the job, he got the word that the project was temporarily shutting down.

"I couldn't believe it," he says. "You know, I just got out here after 10 months of going through this stuff and here's a one-year project and it's like, 'Sorry, no job. Go on home.'"

You can hear/read that story on today's All Things Considered.

In this odd situation, it may not be accurate to say that Congress is in a stalemate — after all, most of the members of Congress are no longer even in Washington. Instead, they've gone home for their August recess.

Speaking on All Things Considered Tuesday, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) said the shutdown might continue until September, or beyond. Reid also said that the main sticking point isn't the status of rural airports, but elements of the House bill that he says are anti-union.

As Eyder reported yesterday, the federal government stands to lose more than $1 billion during the FAA shutdown, thanks to some $30 million in airline ticket taxes that go uncollected each day.

"So this is a lose-lose-lose situation," President Obama said today, "that can be easily solved if Congress gets back into town and does its job. And they don't even have to come back into town. The House and the Senate could, through a procedural agreement, basically do this through unanimous consent. And they can have the fights that they want to have when they get back."

But it's possible that the president isn't optimistic about a quick resolution. The White House announced today that Obama will embark on a tour of the Midwest this month. But he won't be flying — he'll be taking a bus.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.