For over a week now, I've been hearing from employees across the country who are thrilled to be back on the job since Congress passed an extension of the Federal Aviation Administration bill. And on Friday, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt and I traveled to Atlantic City, New Jersey, to meet some of these workers in person at a town hall meeting at the FAA's William J. Hughes Technical Center.
During the partial shutdown that furloughed 4,000 FAA employees and affected 70,000 workers in construction and related fields nationwide, the Hughes Technical Center was especially hard hit. Almost 650 employees at the Center were furloughed for almost two weeks, and hundreds of contractors received stop-work orders that prevented them from doing their jobs.
These are hardworking, dedicated professionals on the front lines of developing many of the NextGen technologies that will completely revolutionize our air transportation system and get passengers to their destinations more quickly and with a smaller carbon footprint. I need our employees at work every day and America needs them at work every day.
And yet, the most common question I was asked during our town hall was, "Is this going to happen again?"
The fact is, with the current FAA extension bill once again set to expire on September 16th, it's more important than ever for members of Congress to put aside their partisan differences and pass a long-term FAA reauthorization bill. And I want our employees to know we are doing everything possible to make sure we avoid another furlough.
Employees have also been concerned about pay lost during the partial shutdown. We're working with Congress to ensure that our employees receive back pay for the time that they were furloughed. Congress owes it to our workers, and I am urging them to make sure this gets done as soon as possible.
While I was in Atlantic City on Friday, a number of employees took a moment to thank me for speaking out on their behalf and helping them get back to work. One woman even said she was worried about my blood pressure and thought I should swing by the city's famous beaches to relax for a bit.
But the way I see it, the real thanks goes out to all of our employees who show up to work hard for the American people every day. They're the reason we have the best aviation system in the world, and I'll continue to do my best by them.