How One TSA Worker Got By During the Shutdown

Four times a week, Bee works a 13 hour day — eight hours at his full-time job as a TSA agent at the Salt Lake City International Airport and then another five at the side hustle he’s been using to get his family through the government shutdown.

This is, he says, the third shutdown of his 17 year career with the Transportation Security Administration, but the first time he’s missed a check.

“I chose that career because it is government,” said Bee, who asked to be identified only by his middle name so not to draw fire from his supervisors. “You know everybody says it’s safe, reliable.”

Now that political leaders have reached a deal to reopen the government, Bee said he thinks it won’t be long before he’s paid, but a month of working without pay has him assessing his career and financial plans.

Past shutdowns lasted days, not weeks, so finding a supplemental income stream wasn’t something Bee said he ever needed to do.

But this time, his bank account was hit hard at a time when Bee was already trying to make up for lost income. Two months before the shutdown, Bee was out on medical leave for two months. Bee had enough sick-day pay to cover only the first month.

“I was back a week and I was able to get one paycheck and then they shut down,” he said.

Fortunately, Bee had already started working a side job as a security officer at the department store where his wife is a manager so he could recoup that lost salary and pay off holiday bills.

It was only supposed to be temporary, but with the shutdown, the store allowed Bee to stay longer.

At $10.50 an hour and just 20 hours a week, the pay isn’t enough to cover all the household expenses and bills, Bee’s TSA paycheck used to cover, but it helps.

“We’re flat out behind everywhere now,” the 47-year-old father of two said. “My wife is taking care of the mortgage, but nothing else is getting paid and now it looks like we might be a little behind on our mortgage next month.”

Having two jobs makes for a long day. Bee’s airport shifts run from 4 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and then, after picking up his kids from school, he’s at the store from 4 to 9 p.m. It’s tough, he said, but he’s also not alone.

Bee said he knows other agents working side jobs to make ends meet. One co-worker is working at a big-box hardware and appliance store; another is driving for the car service, Lyft.

Bee said he plans to keep working as a security guard after the shutdown ends and maybe eventually turn it into a new career.

“I’d like to stay in government but nobody’s paying now,” he said, adding that workers shouldn’t suffer when politicians can’t get along, “I’m tired having to deal with every year, my life being put on hold.”