Trump reopens government operations as FAA reports ‘sick leaves’ causing flight delays

Tears streaked down LaShanda Palmer’s face Friday as she stood outside Terminal B of the Philadelphia International Airport.

Palmer, an airport security officer, is one of the 800,000 federal employees who have just missed a second paycheck because of the partial federal government shutdown.

“I’m done my savings,” said Palmer after a chilly, hour-long rally organized by the American Federation of Government Workers, the country’s largest union for federal workers.

That’s a problem.

There’s the matter of putting food on the table, but Palmer also owes her landlord $1,100 for rent. In just a few days, her car registration expires, and she relies on it to drive to work from nearby Delaware County.

“I try to be as positive to the officers as I can, but then I go home and I cry,” said Palmer.

A few hours later, it appeared her problem will be solved – at least for three weeks.

President Donald Trump announced a plan to reopen government operations until Feb. 15 so negotiators can work out a deal on funding for security measures along the Mexican border.

Federal workers will receive back pay as soon as possible, said Trump. The measure passed the Senate by voice vote Friday hours after Trump relented. The House was expected to quickly pass the measure, then send it to the White House for Trump’s signature in order to end the longest shutdown – 35 days – in U.S. history.

Palmer called the news “bittersweet.”

“I’m grateful, most definitely,” she said. “But to hear that it was only going to be open until Feb. 15 is kind of … I don’t know. I’m at a loss for words because I don’t know if I have faith that they’re going to come through with some kind of agreement within the time.

“I won’t be able to breathe and be able to sleep easy until Feb. 15.”

Her concerns may have merit.

In announcing the reopening, Trump also said he will declare a national emergency to build his U.S.-Mexico border wall if there is no deal with Congress by mid-February.

On Thursday, President Trump tweeted that “Without a Wall there cannot be safety and security and the Border or for the U.S.A. BUILD THE WALL AND CRIME WILL FALL!”

In what appeared to the latest fallout from the shutdown, arriving flights from Newark International and Philadelphia International airports were delayed an average of 41 minutes at one point on Friday, NBC10 reported.

At least one traveler tweeted that she was sitting on the tarmac for nearly an hour because of “staff shortages in air traffic control.” Making matters worse, her flight landed 45 minutes early, she said.

Another traveler said his JetBlue flight was approaching a 2-hour delay after its original route was canceled because of the staffing issues.

LaGuardia Airport in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey were both experiencing takeoff delays.

The Federal Aviation Administration is reporting delays in air travel because of a “slight increase in sick leave” at two East Coast air traffic control facilities.

FAA spokesman Gregory Martin said Friday that it had augmented staffing, rerouted traffic and increased spacing between planes as needed.

The staffing problems were at air traffic centers in Jacksonville, Florida, and a Washington, D.C., center that controls high-altitude air traffic over seven states. Martin said safety is being maintained during a period of “minimal impacts” on travel.


WHYY staff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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