Long lines were spotted at the TSA counter in O’Hare Airport Monday—a possible outcome of the partial government shutdown.
The federal agency tasked with guaranteeing U.S. airport security acknowledged an increase in the number of its employees calling off work during the partial government shutdown.
Employees of the Transportation Security Administration are expected to work without pay during the shutdown because their jobs are considered essential.
The TSA said in a statement Friday that call outs that began over the holiday period have increased. The agency did not say how many of its employees have called out, but it said the call outs have had "minimal impact given that there are 51,739 employees supporting the screening process." The statement said wait times "may be affected" but so far "remain well within TSA standards."
"TSA is closely monitoring the situation," the agency statement said. "Security effectiveness will not be compromised."
Still, after touring O’Hare Monday, Senator Tammy Duckworth said fewer agents working the gates is a real fear as the shutdown continues.
“We are not hearing it’s affecting O’Hare so much but other airports around the country...many TSA agents are calling off sick in order to go work other jobs because they have to put food on the table...they have to make rent and all of that,” said Sen. Duckworth.
As the partial shutdown approaches its second full week, the Illinois senator says other programs are currently at risk as well.
“Food aid for one,” she said. “Right now we are in danger of shutting down the SNAP program... people who receive SNAP benefits will start to see that affecting them.”
The effect, if any at O’Hare seems minimial as of Monday but travelers are keeping their eyes on Washington.
Duckworth says there are bi-partisan bills that can get the whole government up and running again, though they are being held hostage by the President and Republicans in the Senate.
“I voted in December for a republican bill to keep government funded and I would vote for it again today or tomorrow if they would let me,” she said.