Can you believe that it's been nearly 15 days since the partial government shutdown began? With no end in sight, things are reportedly starting to get really out of control. Aside from all the back-and-forth between Congress and the White House regarding an agreement on border security that would end this entire thing, it could affect your next trip to the airport. Given that many government employees are on furlough, you might be wondering: Are TSA workers paid during the shutdown? Well, many TSA agents are reportedly taking sick days amid the shutdown as they near their first missed paychecks. In an emailed statement to Elite Daily, TSA spokesperson James Gregory says of the reported increase in sick days, "I can confirm that call outs began over the holiday period and have increased, but are causing minimal impact given there are 51,739 employees supporting the screening process." He adds, "We are not seeing a marked increase in 'call outs' at this time."
CNN first published the news on Jan. 4, reporting that hundreds of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers — who are required to work during the shutdown, even if their paychecks are delayed — from at least four major airports have called out of work as of late. Sources familiar with the matter told the outlet that the call outs are in protest of the delay in payouts. A union official, however, said that some have called out for more practical reasons, like not being able to afford child care and other costs while they are on furlough. Either way, this could likely have some major effects on future airport operations. "This problem of call outs is really going to explode over the next week or two when employees miss their first paycheck," a union official at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport told CNN. "TSA officers are telling the union they will find another way to make money. That means calling out to work other jobs."
Even though TSA officers haven't yet missed a paycheck, the shutdown's continuation into next week would lead to TSA employees not getting their timely paychecks, but they would have to have continue reporting to work amid the partial shutdown.
While TSA spokesperson James Gregory confirms to Elite Daily that call outs started over the holiday season and have increased since, he notes that it is not a "marked increase." Gregory says a "normal" day for TSA includes 3.5 percent of the workforce calling out sick. For reference, "DFW Airport experienced 5.5 [percent] of the workforce 'calling out'" on Friday, Jan. 4, per Gregory.
So what does this mean for you travelers? Speaking to its possible effect on travelers, Gregory shares:
Security effectiveness will not be compromised and performance standards will not change. Wait times may be affected depending on the number of call outs, however to date, screening wait times remain well within TSA standards. Thursday, for example, TSA screened more than 2.2 million passengers. Overall, 99.8% waited less than 30 minutes.
While wait times "may be affected," Gregory also notes that 99.8 percent of the more than 2.2 million passengers screened on Thursday "waited less than 30 minutes" in line. CNN reported that call outs notably increased at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and two North Carolina airports, including Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, but, according to Gregory, it sounds like everything is still under control. In his statement, Gregory adds, "TSA is grateful to the agents who show up to work, remain focused on the mission and respectful to the traveling public as they continue the important work necessary to secure the nation’s transportation systems."
Unfortunately, it doesn't look like this shutdown is ending any time soon. On Jan. 4, President Trump said he would keep the government closed for "years" if that's what it takes for Congress to give him $5 billion dollars for a border wall with Mexico. Meanwhile, Democrats have repeatedly said they aren't giving him anything more than the $1.3 billion they've already offered for border fencing and barriers. So yeah, looks like we could be here for a while. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for further comment on Trump's remarks at the time, but did not hear back.
Then again, Trump also said on Friday that he was considering circumventing Congress by declaring a national emergency, which would allow him to divert funds from the Department of Defense and other sources to be able to pay for the wall. So it seems like there may be a slight chance the government will reopen soon. It's really anyone's guess, though.