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TSA operations continue at BWI amid national reports of agents calling out sick

Checkpoint operations performed by Transportation Security Administration officers were called “routine” Saturday at BWI Marshall Airport. That comes amid reports of agents calling out sick during the federal government’s partial shutdown.

Jonathan Dean, a BWI spokesman, said the airport is “monitoring the situation and working closely with our TSA counterpart.”

Hundreds of TSA officers — who have been required to work without pay since the shutdown began Dec. 22 — have called out sick in recent days, according to national reports. Many are concerned the call outs could make airport screenings less secure.

“This will definitely affect the flying public who we (are) sworn to protect," Hydrick Thomas, president of the national TSA employee union, told CNN.

TSA issued a statement in response to CNN’s report: “Call outs began over the Holiday period and have increased, but are causing minimum impact given there are 51,739 employees supporting the screening process. Security effectiveness will not be compromised and performance standards will not change.

“Wait times may be affected depending on the number of call outs.”

The statement said TSA is “closely monitoring the situation” and “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.”

It is unclear how many agents are missing their shift at BWI because they say they’re too sick to work — or how that number compares to a normal period.

Lisa Farbstein, a TSA spokeswoman for the Baltimore area, said she is on furlough until further notice as a non-essential employee.

“Due to the partial government shutdown, the Department of Homeland Security of which the Transportation Security Administration is a component, has not been funded,” Farbstein said in an automated email response. “Due to the lapse in federal funding, this email will not be monitored, and I will not be able to respond until after budget appropriations are enacted.”

President Donald Trump and Congress have been unable to settle a dispute over $5.7 billion for the construction of a wall along the country’s southern border. About a quarter of federal agencies, such as departments of State, Justice, Commerce and the Interior, have been shut down for two weeks.

Food stamps for low-income Americans face severe reductions and tax refunds are at risk of being frozen or delayed if the shutdown continues into February, according to a Washington Post story.

TSA agents are among some 800,000 government employees who have been furloughed or required to work without pay.

Gov. Larry Hogan joined the governor of Virginia and the mayor of the District of Columbia in urging the president and Congress to end the shutdown.

“The national capital region is home to well over 360,000 federal workers, many of whom are employed by departments and agencies affected by this lapse in appropriations,” Hogan, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wrote in a letter Friday.

Hogan is a Republican; Bowser and Northam are Democrats.

“As our federal employees and contractors experience a sudden loss of income, this not only causes financial hardship for individuals and families, but also deals a significant blow to our region’s economy,” they wrote. “Hard-working federal employees and those who depend on them should not have to suffer because of this partisan standoff.”

ywenger@baltsun.com

twitter.com/yvonnewenger

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