Delays Hit U.S. Airports As Furloughs Kick In, FAA Says

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FAA furloughs airport delays
J Pat Carter/AP
By Alwyn Scott

NEW YORK -- Travelers waited more than an hour for flights in New York and experienced delays at other U.S. airports on Sunday evening as furloughs of air traffic controllers began, reducing the ability of busy hubs to handle arrivals and departures, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The furloughs that started Sunday reduced staffing by 10 percent across the country. Last week, the FAA warned of delays up to 3½ hours at some airports as the agency cuts spending to meet reductions required under federal budget cuts.

New York's LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports reported delays of more than an hour, and Philadelphia international airport also reported delays due to furloughs, the FAA said.

Los Angeles International reported nearly a 2-hour delay at 10 p.m. ET, and Newark Liberty International reported 28-minute delays, though the FAA couldn't confirm whether those were related to the staff cuts. Delays of up to 58 minutes in San Francisco and 29 minutes in Orlando, Fla., were due to construction and weather, the FAA said.

"Relatively good weather throughout the country and light traffic helped minimize air traffic delays," FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said.
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The delays come as the FAA furloughs its 47,000 employees, including nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers who manage the nation's airspace.

The furloughs are set to last through September, the end of the U.S. fiscal year, and are expected to save about $200 million of the $637 million the agency must cut from its $16 billion budget, the FAA said last week.

Paul Rinaldi, president of the Air Traffic Controllers Association, said about 1,200 to 1,500 controllers will be staying home each day, on average, and that some airports might be able to shift staffing to reduce the effect of the furloughs. U.S. airports handle about 25,000 flights a day, he said.

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Delays Hit U.S. Airports As Furloughs Kick In, FAA Says

If you have a child in public school, watch out: $406 million is scheduled to get axed from the Head Start budget, which means that 70,000 kids will be kicked out of the program. Another $840 million is going to get pulled out of special education programs, and the White House estimates that another 10,000 teachers' jobs will be put at risk.

If you're planning to fly anywhere, be sure to pack an extra paperback: The TSA's airport security budget will be cut by $323 million, which means that your already-long check-in line will get even longer. And, while we're at it, it looks like there will be about 10 percent fewer air traffic controllers on the job, which is sure to slow things down even more.

Remember the floods and hurricanes that have devastated large swathes of the country over the past few years? Remember all the complaints we heard (and made) about FEMA's sluggish response to those disasters? Well, get ready for more of the same: Sequestration is going to cut $375 million from FEMA's disaster relief budget.

If you like meat -- or any food, really -- now might be a good time to stock up. The food inspectors who make sure your ground beef isn't ground horse and your chicken isn't a petri dish of harmful bacteria are about to be furloughed. Even non-carnivores are facing bad news: After a $206 million cut to its budget, the FDA will have to cut back on most of its food inspection programs.

Sequestration won't be bad news for everyone: If you're a criminal, it might be cause to celebrate. After all, with $355 million being cut from prison funding, convicts could be out on the street sooner than they expected. And, with $480 million being cut from the FBI's budget, if you've committed a crime recently, you might not need to worry as much about covering your tracks.

If you're a virus, things are looking up for you and your relatives, too. The National Institutes of Health are losing $1.6 billion and the Centers for Disease Control will say goodbye to $323 million. From research to public health programs, this will translate into a real downgrade to our nation's health care backbone.

Unfortunately, things won't be great if you want to take a vacation: With $110 million being cut from the National Park Service budget, many park services will be cut back or closed. In other words, if you're one of the 250,000 people who were planning to visit the Grand Canyon this year, you should prepare for a delayed opening and reduced options.

While not all federal student aid programs will take a hit in 2013, sequestration is on track to make things tough for low-income college students. The Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, which can give a needy student up to $4,000 a year, will likely be cut by 8.2 percent, as will federal work study programs. And for students who want to borrow money, student loan origination fees will also go up.

Here's a silver lining to sequestration: It will be educational. For years, this nation has been in the midst of an argument about what role the federal government has and should have in our daily lives. For anyone who has wondered what the government really does for them, the next few months will be an outstanding lesson in where, exactly, your tax money goes.

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