The percentage of TSA airport screeners missing work hit a record 10% as the partial government shutdown stretched into its fifth week. The Transportation Security Administration said Monday that Sunday's absence rate was up from 3.1% on the comparable Sunday a year ago. The workers who screen passengers and their bags face missing another paycheck if the shutdown doesn't end early this week, the AP reports. According to TSA, many of them say the financial hardship is preventing them from reporting to work. TSA says the national average waiting time in airport checkpoint lines is within the normal limit of 30 minutes, but there are longer lines at some airports.
The 10% absence rate topped the previous high of 8% set a day earlier. The agency has dispatched extra screeners to airports in Atlanta, LaGuardia Airport in New York, and Newark, New Jersey. A TSA spokesman says other airports might also be getting additional help. TSA appeared to be managing the high sick-out rate as well as could be expected. The agency said that on Sunday it screened 1.78 million passengers, and only 6.9%—roughly 120,000 people—had to wait 15 minutes or longer to get through security. TSA got a break from bad weather: Storms in the Midwest and Northeast led airlines to cancel more than 4,400 flights over the three-day weekend, which reduced the number of passengers to screen. (Donations are helping furloughed workers get food and beer.)