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Thursday, January 26, 2023

TSA Workforce Bill Proposes COVID-19 Exposure Payment as Cases Rise Following Mask Ruling

In March, a Government Accountability Office report praised the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for its pandemic response actions that protected the health of travelers and employees alike. TSA’s directives included passenger and medical screening, international arrival restrictions and vaccine requirements, as well as mask mandates. 

However, TSA ceased to enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs, following a court ruling on the order on April 18. Since then, COVID-19 infections have jumped 50% among TSA employees according to a Forbes report which cites TSA data. This is a trend that many health professionals expect to see reflected across the United States.

To help TSA employees, the House recently passed Bill HR-903 on TSA workforce rights. A section of the Bill requires the TSA administrator to provide a one-time bonus payment of $3,000 to each employee carrying out duties that require substantial contact with the public during the COVID–19 national emergency. Such employees include transportation security officers, federal air marshals, canine handlers, as well as other TSA staff. The Bill also directs TSA to ensure its employees are provided proper guidance regarding prevention and protections against COVID-19.

The Bill has been received in the Senate, read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Should the Senate pass it, the Bill would see TSA employees move into standard civil service policies including for pay-setting and appeal rights. A White House statement supported the Bill and said the legislation “is an important step in ensuring equitable pay for the TSA workforce and is aligned with the 2023 President’s Budget request to improve pay for TSA employees”. The Administration has pledged to work with Congress to enact and fund the legislation. 

In addition, HR-903 requests the TSA administrator to work with groups representing federal air marshals to address concerns related to mental health, suicide rates, morale and recruitment.

The Bill also calls for a report to Congress regarding recruitment efforts relating to veterans and the dependents of veterans and members of the Armed Forces and the dependents of such members.

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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