Federal shutdown hasn’t landed at airport

Restaurant owner, other business owners offer assistance to federal workers.

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Martha's Vineyard Airport manager Ann Richart says that so far the federal government shutdown is not having an impact at the Island airport. –Gabrielle Mannino

Updated at 6:20 pm

The partial shutdown of the federal government, which is reportedly having an impact on TSA screeners at airports across the country, is not yet having that same effect at Martha’s Vineyard Airport, Ann Richart, airport manager, told The Times.

President Donald Trump and the U.S. Congress are at odds over Trump’s demands for $5 billion for a border wall.

“Nationwide, the TSA screeners received their last paychecks a few days ago,” Richart wrote in a text message. “From this point forward, TSA will be coming to work not knowing when the next paycheck will be. So far we haven’t experienced any problems with TSA at MVY, but every day will be a concern.”

Richart said the airport’s air traffic control tower is operated by controllers who work for Midwest Air Traffic under contract with the Federal Aviation Administration. “We’ve been assured that this contract is safe, and we should not expect any disruption of [air traffic control] services,” she wrote.

The airport is also in planning a runway reconstruction project that is funded through an FAA grant. “However, it is not clear if the FAA staff who manage the grant program or our airport safety programs will be impacted,” she wrote. “The longer that this government shutdown continues, the more impacts we’ll begin to see.”

Richart predicted that those impacts will be felt in “a much slower response and turnaround time from all of our FAA and TSA partners.”

As The Times reported last week, the Coast Guard is also impacted by the shutdown. While Coasties were paid for the final two weeks of 2018, their pay is in question as the shutdown continues.

While the arrival of their paychecks may be uncertain, restaurateur J.B. Blau wants the Island’s federal government employees to not have to worry about getting a full meal.

Blau told The Times he is opening charge accounts for government people and their families affected by the shutdown to eat at any of his restaurants: Sharky’s, Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Co., Loft Pizza, and Copper Wok.

“I don’t think it’s fair they’re caught in the middle of politics as usual,” Blau said. “If this can let a family still go out and feel normal for a couple hours, I’m happy to do it.”

Blau said the process would be completely confidential, and that government employees can contact him by email at jbonmv@gmail.com to work out the details. He also hopes other businesses join in and lend a hand to members of their community. “I think that would be a great movement for the Island,” he said.

Some Island business have already followed suit. Elio Silva, owner of Vineyard Grocer in Vineyard Haven, said he was happy to open charge accounts for Island government employees who aren’t getting paid.

“We know it was an unexpected thing,” Silva said. “We understand things on the Vineyard are very hard.”

Silva added that government employees should contact him at elio@eliosilva.com to set up accounts.

It’s not just the food industry, either. Fred Mascolo, the Fred of Trader Fred’s in Edgartown, said he was joining with Blau and Silva so government employees such as the Island’s TSA employees and Coasties can set up charge accounts if they need socks, shoes, boots, shirts, and anything else in the store.

Coasties not getting paid hits especially close to home for Mascolo, who said the Coast Guard saved his life several years ago by getting him safely to Boston to receive emergency medical attention.

“Every time I see a Coastie, I have very warm thoughts,” Mascolo said. “As an American, regardless of who is right or wrong here, we have a due diligence to help people who risk their lives for us in any way we can … I’m honored to be able to help these people if I can.”

George Brennan contributed to this report. Updated to include several other businesses also offering assistance to federal employees not receiving pay. -Ed.

 

1 COMMENT

  1. so proud that the vineyard business community is stepping up. I love living here because of stuff like this.

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