Miami International Airport shutters checkpoint as shutdown drags on

Government shutdown affects lines at security screening checkpoints

By Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer

MIAMI - The U.S. government's budget standoff, which continues to affect hundreds of thousands of federal employees facing the longest shutdown in U.S. history, prompted Miami International Airport to close a security checkpoint early Saturday afternoon.

President Donald Trump has refused to sign spending bills for nine of the 15 Cabinet-level departments until Congress approves $5.7 billion to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall. The Democrats are refusing to provide the funding for Trump's wall.

The partial shutdown is forcing many airports to reassess operational plans. According to Greg Chin, MIA's spokesman, the Central Terminal's Concoursel G closed at 1 p.m., and will continue to close early through Monday due to a shortage of Transportation Security Administration agents. 

Many TSA agents, who earn an average of $35,000 a year, are not showing up to work and some are considering resigning due to financial hardship, according to the TSA Council of the American Federation of Government Employees, or AFGE

"They are not getting paid so it makes sense that they don't want to work," said Alexander Smith, a passenger.

David Pekoske, the administrator of TSA, approved awards of $500 for each uniformed screening officer, and processed compensation to all of the TSA employees who worked Dec. 22, the day following the start of the lapse in funding. 

"While I realize this is not what you are owed for your hard work during pay period 26 and what you deserve, I hope these actions alleviate some of the financial hardship many of you are facing," Pekoske tweeted Friday. 

Pekoske asked TSA agents to stay focused and take care of one another. According to Michael Bilello, a spokesman for the T.S.A., the staff shortages were not critical and were not affecting travelers yet. 

"This morning, TSA experienced a national rate of 5.6 percent of unscheduled absences compared to 3.3 percent rate one year ago," Bilello tweeted Saturday. "Most importantly, security standards remain uncompromised at our nation's airports."

According to Bilello, about 95 percent of passengers waited less than 15 minutes to go through TSA screening nationwide, and those who used the TSA Pre program waited less than 5 minutes. 

 

 

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