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NATCA News Alert: Congress passes full-year funding bill, coronavirus relief package

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are pleased to report that Congress has passed legislation to provide funding for the federal government through the end of the current fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2021. The full-year funding bill, known as an “omnibus,” passed the U.S. House of Representatives this evening in two tranches. The first tranche included the Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce-Justice-Science and Financial Services funding bills and passed by a vote of (327-85). The second tranche included the remaining appropriations bills, including Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development funding bill that covers the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as well as a coronavirus relief package. That tranche passed by a vote of (359-53).

Shortly after, the U.S. Senate followed suit and passed the legislation by a vote of 91-7. Due to the mammoth size of the legislation, which is nearly 5,600 pages, it is expected to take several days for it to be printed, enrolled, and sent to the President’s desk for signature. Therefore, the government will operate under a 7-day Continuing Resolution (CR), which also passed today, until the President signs the omnibus and coronavirus relief package into law. The White House has signaled that the President will sign the legislation as soon as it reaches his desk. Once the President signs the legislation, there will be no more immediate threats of a government shutdown and the FAA will continue to function as normal through Sept. 30, 2021.

Additionally, the Aircraft Certification Reform and Accountability Act was included in the final funding bill. NATCA worked aggressively with Congressional leadership to ensure NATCA’s input was included in this legislation, which makes several critical improvements to the FAA’s Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) program and ensures that the Aircraft Certification Service will have the same type of voluntary safety reporting system that NATCA and the FAA have developed and implemented successfully in the Air Traffic Organization. Provisions in this bill should strengthen the aviation safety culture within the FAA and the aircraft manufacturing industry particularly in the areas of communications and accountability.

The legislation is silent on the pay raise for federal civilian employees next year. This means that the President’s alternative pay plan issued February 10, 2020 including a 1% pay raise with no locality adjustment for 2021 is scheduled to move forward. The President will need to issue an Executive Order to implement the pay raise before it goes into effect.

We are also pleased to share that the coronavirus relief package will assist our brothers and sisters who work for U.S. airlines and the contractors who support the airline industry. The bill provides a four-month extension of a government assistance program to fund payroll costs. Airline workers would be paid retroactive to Dec. 1 and could not be furloughed through March 31, 2021, as a condition of the assistance.

The legislation passed tonight is one of the longest bills in history. We are still in the process of reviewing how it will affect NATCA members and aviation more broadly. Once we have completed our review, we will provide a more detailed summary. We expect the President to sign the legislation before the 7-day CR expires next week.

Finally, it is good that we likely avoided a shutdown this fiscal year. However, these prolonged negotiations that required five CRs to keep the government open for three months after the last fiscal year ended demonstrate how the status quo is broken. The National Airspace System continues to be challenged by the lack of a stable, predictable funding stream. That is why when the next Congress is sworn in, we will continue to push for legislation that would authorize the FAA to draw from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) ensuring that all programs, projects, or activities continue uninterrupted, so the FAA can carry out its mission in the event of a future government shutdown.

In solidarity, 

Paul Rinaldi

Trish Gilbert
Executive Vice President

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