It's a chance to pay back generosity shown during government shutdown.

By Tim Nelson
Updated May 04, 2020
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In normal times, it’s safe to say that most air travelers aren’t the biggest fans of the TSA and its employees. On bad days, it can even seem like they’re going out of their way to make life more difficult.

But in a moment of unprecedented disruption to air travel, it turns out TSA workers are stepping up to help out the furloughed, laid off, or underemployed workers they share an airport with. As CNBC reports, airports around the country have turned into makeshift food pantries thanks to TSA employees who have donated their money, time, or both to keep the shelves stocked with food and other essentials like toiletries and masks.

Airports like Dulles in Washington, D.C. have provided support in the form of pantry space, shelving, and cleaning help, creating a dedicated space for airport employees who’ve fallen on hard times to find what they need eight hours a day. In Denver, for example, 133 TSA agents stocked enough pantry items to feed 538 family members of unemployed airport staff. Other airports around the country from Providence to Portland have seen TSA agents buy a whole bunch of pizzas or lunches for airport workers as well.

As it turns out, the TSA’s efforts to give back during the pandemic are an attempt to return a favor. During the last government shutdown of December 2018 and January 2019, essential TSA workers who had to stay on the job without pay benefited from the generosity of fellow airport workers. So it was only natural that TSA workers, who are still drawing paychecks but finding themselves with more downtime these days, would keep the spirit of giving alive now that the shoe is on the other foot.

“When this pandemic started affecting our airport family, we decided that this was our unique opportunity to be able to repay all of their kindness and take care of those in need,” Francesca Baker, TSA program specialist at Portland International Airport, told CNBC.

With the Airport Restaurant and Retail Association estimating that between 120,000 and 125,000 airport employees are currently out of work due to Covid-19, there are plenty of folks in need at a time like this. In the absence of broader help, it’s at least nice to know that those fortunate enough to maintain a steady income are doing what they can to make sure the people they share a workspace with can make it through these hard times.