More T.S.A. Agents Refuse to Work During Shutdown, Raising Fears of Airport Turmoil – The New York Times

Like many other screeners interviewed for this article, she declined to be identified because she said she had been warned against talking to journalists.

“It’s difficult to budget things like food, or knowing which bills to pay, when you simply don’t know when you’ll have money again,” said a 29-year-old man who works for the T.S.A. at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

He said that he had contacted his banks, mortgage company and other creditors but none of them had a program to help in his situation. The Department of Homeland Security distributed letters for its employees to show to landlords, explaining that they “are unlikely to be able to pay for their housing for the foreseeable future,” but they have been of little assistance, he said.

So he was resigned to having to run up the balances on his credit cards and pay interest on the debt, he said, adding that in the meantime, he was looking around the house for things that he could sell quickly on eBay.

At O’Hare, he said, “Our policies and screening procedures aren’t being done any less thorough, but it’s likely they may take longer the more officers we become short.”

Federal officials have downplayed the effects of the partial shutdown on travelers. Michael Bilello, a spokesman for the T.S.A., has been using Twitter to report how long it is taking to get through security checkpoints. On Friday morning, he said that the maximum wait time at Newark Liberty International on Thursday was 36 minutes but at Boston Logan International it was just 7 minutes.

David P. Pekoske, the administrator of the T.S.A., said in a statement on Thursday: “I am connected to the field & fully understand the strain our employees & their families are experiencing. Yet, due to the commitment & resolve of the TSA work force, the traveling public has confidently traveled securely around the clock as high-level of travel volume indicate.”

No other major airports have announced plans to take the sort of action that Miami International has planned. Mr. Chin said that the airport would close Concourse G at 1 p.m. on Saturday through Monday and divert the flights that would normally leave from there to another concourse. He described that shift as a precaution “just in case the number of call-outs increases.”

A spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the three major airports that serve New York City, said those airports had continued to operate normally during the shutdown.

One transportation security officer on a meal break in Terminal 2 at Kennedy International Airport this week said that his co-workers were still showing up to work and quietly enduring the uncertainty.

“It’s like you feel that silent tension that’s going to build up later on,” said the officer, a two-year veteran who lives in Queens and takes care of his parents. He said he could manage without a paycheck for now, but a shutdown lasting months or longer would be another matter.

“If it continues for a year, then the question is can you survive?” he said. Eventually, he suggested, he and his co-workers might start having to choose between food and shelter — and probably would cut back on food first.

“Can I do the job without nutrition? Somebody has to answer that,” he said. “If 52,000 people have to work without nourishment, can the job get done?”

He said health care was another worry because a lot of the agents take prescription medications. “How long can we go forward when it actually affects your fundamental needs?” he said.

For now the plan was to keep showing up. “I’m not taking my vacation next week,” he said. “I have to come, which I will, because I’m under oath, so I’m going to do that.”

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