Shutdown Roundup: TSA Absentee Rate Hits 10 Percent, Feds' Side Hustles and More

A TSA worker is shown at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in December. A TSA worker is shown at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in December. Nam Y. Huh/AP

The federal government's partial shutdown passed through the 30-day mark over the weekend, which means that Dec. 21 furlough notices have expired for most feds. The Office of Personnel Management said that "agencies should treat [the ongoing lapse in appropriations] as a second shutdown furlough and issue another adverse action or furlough notice," suggesting there is no end in sight for the shutdown affecting over 800,000 federal employees.

At GovExec, we can't report on all aspects of the shutdown. Here is a roundup of a few story lines from reporting in other news outlets.

Rock band Kiss has a series of airport restaurants and is offering free food to Transportation Security Administration agents during the shutdown at all Rock and Brews locations, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. TSA agents have to show their badge at the restaurants, the band announced on the restaurant chain's Facebook page. Bassist Gene Simmons said the band respects "the diligent hard work of each and every TSA employee" in the video. Read more at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

TSA agents called out at a 10 percent rate on Sunday, marking the first time the absence rate reached that mark since the shutdown began in December, according to the Associated Press. A TSA release said the number compared to a 3.1 percent absence rate in 2018. AP said many of the workers called out because of the "financial hardship" caused by the shutdown. The absence rate prompted airports around the nation including Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport to close security checkpoints. AP noted that some airports are using government-sanctioned private contractors in lieu of TSA and that the shutdown "could lead other airports to consider going private, although that hasn’t happened yet." Read more on AP's site.

As affected federal employees are about to miss their second paychecks, some have resorted to driving for rideshare services, substitute teaching and other part-time jobs to make ends meet, according to The New York Times. The paper spoke to a Bureau of Land Management employee in Milwaukee who makes $50 (on a good day) driving for Uber, an Agriculture employee near Washington, D.C., who started delivering food and a Forest Service worker in Michigan who is looking to get into substitute teaching to pay bills. One Food and Drug Administration employee said even moonlighting work would be fruitless because of the uncertain time frame. "Who’s going to hire me not knowing how long I’m going to stick around?" David Arvelo said. Read more at The New York Times.

Another downside to the shutdown is that federal IT managers and agencies are losing out on recruitment during "prime hiring season," our sibling site Nextgov reported. Agencies like Homeland Security are not able to host or attend the usual recruiting events during because of the funding gap, losing out on quality candidates. Dave Mihelcic, the former chief technology officer at the Defense Information Systems Agency, told Nextgov that the shutdown also knocks down the notion that public service is a stable job. "There just will be a more negative perception of the stability and security and viability of a career in the federal government coming out of this shutdown," even for agencies unaffected by the shutdown, he said. Read more at Nextgov.

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