TSA agents working without pay decline gifts, tips from travelers due to ethics rules

TSA agents working without pay decline gifts, tips from travelers due to ethics rules
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Transportation Security Administration agents who are working without pay due to the partial government shutdown have been declining gifts and tips from travelers due to ethics rules. 

TSA's @AskTSA Twitter account has been responding to travelers eager to help out with a reminder that agents are not allowed to accept donations from travelers, The Washington Post first reported.

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"Hello! Who do you accept gifts from!?" one user tweeted to @AskTSA on Thursday. "Can they accept a gift from an airport restaurant? Or pizza delivery?" 

"We appreciate the gesture of kindness; however, our officers aren’t allowed to accept gifts or donations of any kind. Safe travels," the account responded.

TSA agents have been calling in sick or quitting altogether amid the 20-day shutdown, according to media reports. Employees deemed essential, including hundreds of thousands of airport workers, are working without pay.

The agency expressed gratitude for the gift offers in a statement posted to its website.

"We are humbled by the acts of kindness and support from industry and the public, who clearly recognize and admire our officers’ efforts,” the agency said in the statement. “TSA will continue to conduct the critical work necessary to secure the nation’s transportation systems. Not on our watch.”

TSA officer Angel Stephensen told the Post that she "had to refuse" a cash tip from a passenger. 

“I could lose my job if I accepted, I told her," she said. "But thanks for the thought. Instead, tell your congressperson.”

Twitter users have offered to set up GoFundMe fundraising campaigns, donate food and bring cash tips to TSA agents on Twitter. 

A union president for TSA workers on Wednesday said some agents have quit their jobs during the shutdown while many others "are considering quitting."

"Every day I’m getting calls from my members about their extreme financial hardships and need for a paycheck," Hydrick Thomas, the TSA council president for the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a statement. "Some of them have already quit and many are considering quitting the federal workforce because of this shutdown." 

TSA agents are expected to miss their first paycheck on Friday.