As shutdown grinds on, TSA workers struggle

Waits of more than a hour reported at Atlanta airport checkpoints

(CNN) - Day 24: Things haven’t gotten any easier for the hundreds of thousands of federal employees feeling the effects of this partial government shutdown.

“We still have expenses to come to work. We got to buy gas. We’ve got childcare to pay for,” said Steve Showalter, an air transportation system specialist.

Hundreds of TSA employees at major airports nationwide have called out sick since the shutdown began.

At Miami’s International Airport, an entire concourse closed early over the weekend due to a shortage in TSA screeners. The agency insists it’s still safe to fly.

A TSA checkpoint at Terminal B at Houston’s Bush Airport remains closed because of a lack of screeners to work the checkpoint, KTRK reported.

At Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, lines of eager travelers snaked all the way back to baggage claim.

An airport official said some of the backup was due to the government shutdown and some TSA lanes were closed due to staffing.

The TSA announced it’ll partially compensate employees who worked on Dec. 22 and give those who worked during the holidays a bonus.

Also working without pay are air traffic controllers, some of whom are working overtime.

“You want that person focused on air safety ... You don’t want 30 percent of his mind focusing on whether he’s going to be able to pay his mortgage or pay his kid’s tuition,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA.

The shutdown is centered on a congressional fight with President Donald Trump over his $5.7 billion demand for a wall along the Mexican border.

Democrats won’t go for that, so four weeks in, little progress has been made.

“The reality is kicking in. How much longer can I do this?” said Aria Smith-Phillips, who is among the around 51,000 TSA screeners working without pay.

“We as TSA workers have a mission to complete and we’re willing to complete that mission,” she said.

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