Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials say the number of absentee employees during the government shutdown is stabilizing, but the rate is still double from the same time last year.
The number of agents missing work has gone up significantly as a result of the ongoing government shutdown.
Agency officials told The Associated Press that 6.1 percent of its workforce called out sick or otherwise missed work on Wednesday, down from 7.7 percent on Sunday but still more than double the rate of reported absences from the same time last year.
The high rate of TSA absences comes ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. weekend when airports naturally experience an increased volume of travelers. Nearly 8 million Americans flew through U.S. airports last year on the holiday weekend.
The stabilization of the absentee rate follows an announcement from TSA Administrator David Pekoske, who said last week that screeners would receive a $500 bonus amid the shutdown while thousands of employees continue to work without regular pay.
Pekoske said that he was allowed to make the payments “because of unique authorities provided TSA in law," according to the AP, and stated that he hoped it would ease the financial hardships of being forced to work without wages.
TSA agents have protested being demanded to work without pay in protests outside Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and by calling out sick around the country, a reduction in staff levels that has forced multiple airports to shutter entire terminals due to security concerns.
One union president for the TSA says that some agents have quit their jobs entirely due to the shutdown's financial burden.
"Every day I’m getting calls from my members about their extreme financial hardships and need for a paycheck. Some of them have already quit and many are considering quitting the federal workforce because of this shutdown,” said Hydrick Thomas, the TSA council president for the American Federation of Government Employees.