Despite government shutdown, TSA still hosting Columbus job fair

Local News
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COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Even though workers aren’t getting paid, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is hiring.

The TSA is planning to host a series of ‘Fast Track to Hire’ events in three cities, including Columbus.

A similar event held this past Saturday in Minneapolis drew 423 applicants. The TSA told KARE it was the most applicants the agency had ever seen at one of its hiring events.

“They came here, they came here knowing that we’re working without pay right now and they’re capitalizing on the aspect of what the mission is about,” said Deputy Federal Security Director for Minnesota David McMahon.

The percentage of TSA airport screeners missing work hit 10 percent Sunday as the partial government shutdown stretched into its fifth week.

The Transportation Security Administration said Monday that Sunday’s absence rate compared to 3.1 percent on the comparable Sunday a year ago.

The workers who screen passengers and their bags face missing another paycheck if the shutdown doesn’t end early this week. According to TSA, many of them say the financial hardship is preventing them from reporting to work.

TSA says the national average waiting time in airport checkpoint lines is within the normal limit of 30 minutes, but there are longer lines at some airports.

The agency has dispatched extra screeners to airports in Atlanta, LaGuardia Airport in New York, and Newark, New Jersey. A TSA spokesman said other airports might also be getting additional help.

Sunday’s 10 percent absence rate indicates that more than 3,000 airport screeners missed work. TSA has 51,000 screeners, and a spokesman said that about 33,000 work on any given day. That topped the previous high of 8 percent on Saturday.

With fewer screeners, TSA closed one of its security checkpoints at Baltimore/Washington airport over the weekend, reopened it, but closed it again Monday afternoon, according to an airport spokeswoman.

A checkpoint at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport remained closed. An airport spokesman said lines were relatively short at the other six checkpoints.

TSA appeared to be managing the high sick-out rate as well as could be expected. The agency said that on Sunday it screened 1.78 million passengers, and only 6.9 percent — roughly 120,000 people — had to wait 15 minutes or longer to get through security.

The holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. is not as busy for travel as many other three-day weekends. However, inconvenience could become a crisis for the travel industry the longer the shutdown lasts — and there are few signs of movement by President Donald Trump or congressional Democrats to break the stalemate over border-wall spending that is causing the shutdown.

“Presidents’ Day weekend is much bigger, and then spring break and Easter— those are really important,” said Savanthi Syth, an airline analyst for Raymond James. Presidents’ Day is Feb. 18, and Syth said if the shutdown drags into next month it could cause some passengers to cancel travel plans.

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