The Transportation Security Administration's federal security director in Minnesota said more than 90 percent of the agency's local employees are still showing up for work, even though they're not getting paid.
Cliff Van Leuven said that the workers' perseverance is helping keep wait times for airport security screening in check. Over the past weekend, wait times topped 40 minutes during peak passenger rushes but averaged about 15 minutes overall.
Van Leuven said the agency is trying to cut employees some slack to deal with family and financial issues.
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"When they're calling in to say, 'I have to take care of meeting with my landlord, my financial institution,' we're doing everything we can to grant that time off, being respectful of the fact that we know they'll be in the next day to do the work," he said.
In a memo to local employees, the TSA said it is facing a critical staffing challenge at main security checkpoints. The agency is closing some secondary checkpoints and assigning managers, back-office staff and other employees to watch exits and otherwise assist security screeners.
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Van Leuven said travelers, businesses and other organizations have been trying help out local TSA screeners working without pay.
"The Metropolitan Airports Commission, the airport staff, the airlines, the concessionaires here and the traveling public had been so supportive in feeding our staff, in dropping off gift cards in small denominations, just to try to help them make ends meet and to show their appreciation," he said.
Van Leuven said federal ethics guidelines limit the value and type of gifts that employees can accept. For instance, he said gift cards worth $20 or less are acceptable but cash donations are not permitted.