HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - In the midst of the government shutdown, TSA staffing at some airports is dwindling. Callouts are at record highs, but that’s not the case in Huntsville where impacted workers are on the job, keeping the airport running at full speed.
More than 80 TSA, FAA and U.S. Customs employees are considered essential employees and they’re working during the shutdown.
“We’re just grateful that our employees here at the airport… have continued to come to work and are so dedicated to their jobs that they continued to come in during this time when they’re not receiving paychecks and do the duties that they signed up for,” said Jana Kuner, public relations manager for Huntsville International Airport.
Restaurants in the community have been providing breakfast and lunch for impacted workers to help them save money on meals.
“That’s been another thing that’s mean a lot to everyone,” Kuner stated. “We have restaurants scheduled out through the end of next week so we’re very thankful to all of them for stepping up to provide this for employees. They’re about to have their second paycheck that they won’t receive. And all of their bills are still coming.”
There’s also a federal employees donation drive to get gift cards to those impacted.
“They have to be a store gift card to a specific store- Publix, Target or a gas card. And they have to be in increments of $20 or less. You can drop cards off at the administrative offices Mon-Fri 8am-5pm. The cards will be distributed to TSA, FAA and Customs to hand out to employees,” Kuner explained.
Airport officials say it all shows the dedication of employees and the kindness of people in the Huntsville community.
“These are people who we work with side by side every day. And they’re coming into work, despite not being paid and that says a lot about them and speaks to their character so I think the least we can do is stand beside them, show our support and help them put gas in their car so they can continue to come to work and help us fly,” Kuner added.
Around the country, 10% of TSA's workers called in sick on Sunday -- compared to just three percent on the same day last year. Being fully staffed has allowed the Huntsville airport to keep flights going. Wait times have not been impacted.
“If they didn’t come to work, we wouldn’t have the security and we couldn’t allow people to continue fly. If the tower weren’t operational, then there’s no one directing those flights,” Kuner said. “They do see that people appreciate them. When you’re walking through the airport, you can see passengers giving them a thumbs up and they’re being very kind and courteous when they go through the TSA procedures so it’s just nice to see that kind of care and give back.”