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By Tim Stelloh
A terminal at Houston’s George Bush International Airport was closed on Sunday amid a shortage of security workers who have gone unpaid during the partial government shutdown, officials said.
In a statement, the airport attributed the closure of Terminal B to “staffing issues” related to the shutdown, which entered its 22nd day on Sunday. A ticketing counter and Transportation Security Administration checkpoint were closed at 3:30 p.m., the statement said.
“Advice to always get to @iah 2 hours before your flight is especially important today,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted. “Shortage of TSA workers, unpaid during the US gov’t shutdown, is causing this change.”
It wasn’t immediately clear when the terminal would reopen. The airport statement said passengers were being directed to other ticket counters and checkpoints.
A TSA spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An automated email reply referenced a “lapse in federal funding” and said messages would only be returned “after appropriations are enacted.”
A note posted on the agency’s website said TSA experienced a national rate of 7.7 percent unscheduled absences on Sunday morning, compared with 3.2 percent one year ago.
Despite those shortages, a department spokesman tweeted Sunday that “security standards remain uncompromised at our nation’s airports.”
Similar closures and so-called “sick outs” have struck other airports around the United States. Dallas/Fort Worth experienced a 2 percent jump in no-shows earlier this month, while Miami International Airport closed one of its concourses on Friday after workers called in sick at twice the normal rate, according to Reuters.
Airport spokesman Greg Chin told the Associated Press that the terminal was scheduled to reopen Monday.
TSA, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, employs 51,000 officers across the country, many of whom earn about $30,000 a year.
Rudy Garcia, president of the union for Dallas TSA employees, said last week that employees who aren’t getting paid for their work would likely try to make money elsewhere.
“If you don’t have a check to pay your bills, what are you going to do?” he said. “You will look for something outside of what you’re doing now.”