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The national rate of unscheduled absences rose to 8 percent on Saturday, compared to just 3 percent a year ago. The agency said the reason many employees are not reporting for work is because of “financial limitations.” TSA employees are among the 420,000 essential federal workers who are still working, despite not receiving a paycheck due to the shutdown.
Some parts of the government remain closed after President Trump and Democratic leaders repeatedly fail to reach an agreement, which centers on Trump’s proposed wall at the southern border. The president offered a new proposal on Saturday, though Democrats rejected the offer.
Agency employees are most often seen screening passengers and bags at U.S. airports, though agents also inspect rail cars and patrol subways with other law enforcement. The TSA employs nearly 50,000 people, who work as security officers, inspectors and air marshals.
The agency said it screened 1.6 million passengers on Saturday, with 99.9 percent waiting less than 30 minutes and 93.8 percent waiting less than 15 minutes. TSA Pre-Check lanes experienced average wait times of less than five minutes. All three are within normal TSA times.
Passengers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport experienced a maximum standard wait time of 41 minutes, with the max TSA Pre-Check wait time at 13 minutes (normal Pre-Check lines are 10 minutes). Most other airports were within standard times.
The agency implemented a contingency plan at Baltimore Washington International Airport on Saturday due to “excessive callouts,” it said, closing a checkpoint until further notice.
The TSA was created in November 2001, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, when former President George W. Bush signed into law the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. The creation of the agency was an effort to “prevent similar attacks” in future.