The government shutdown is taking a toll on Hawaii’s TSA officers. And it might not be much longer before airport operations here are affected.
If so, officials say there are contingency plans in place.
The contingency plan is to consolidate and shut down satellite security checkpoints. There are five of them at the airport in Honolulu.
The head of TSA for the Hawaii region says there has been an increase in officers calling in sick. But for now, operations are normal.
The TSA website says the average wait time Thursday in Honolulu was 24 minutes, 14 minutes on Maui. With a second paycheck to be missed on Friday, things could soon change.
“We may see an increase in the number of call outs for people having to go work other jobs. I have been told by a few of our officers that it’s getting close to that. They can’t buy gas, they can’t pay their mortgage, they can’t do a number of things,” said Jenel Cline, TSA Federal Security Director.
She says there might not be enough officers to staff the satellite checkpoints. Those are the single lines usually only open midday, during the busiest time.
“If we get to that point then yes, we will put out some notices to let them know that they may start coming in a little bit earlier. Like I said before, we’re not there yet,” said Cline.
She adds that the stress of not knowing when the shutdown will end is weighing the officers down.
There are 600 of them in Hawaii and their average salary is $26,000 a year. So Cline says each paycheck is critical.
“We have some officers that are in month to month rentals so in those cases, if they go past a couple of weeks, we’ve had a couple of people that have gotten eviction notices,” said Cline.
She adds that many have been going to food pantries to feed their family. While banks have offered low interest loans, she says officers are hesitant to get one because they’re not sure when they can pay it back.
Cline says no one in Hawaii has actually quit as a result of the shutdown. But she adds that this is a critical time. They are grateful though for the support from people who have showered officers with thanks for being there.
“That really goes a long way and I just want to let everybody know how much the officers appreciate that. They comment on it everyday to me,” Cline said.