TSA Collects Nearly $500,000 In Abandoned Change Per Year And Has No Idea What To Do With It

from the the-unofficial-National-Tip-Jar dept

The TSA undoubtedly has several problems, chief among them being charged with providing an expensive, interactive theater program aimed at putting travelers’ minds at ease while simultaneously putting their nether regions through a rigorous groping regimen. The exposure of documents stating its all-important job isn’t actually that important certainly doesn’t help. As it stands now, the TSA is just another government institution, destined to be funded in perpetuity, even as its relevance continues to erode.

One problem it shouldn’t have but does is how to deal with a vast accumulation of pocket change left behind by the nation’s travelers.

Last year, the Transportation Security Administration collected $531,395.22 in change left behind at checkpoints.

Federal law requires the TSA to report the amount of unclaimed money they keep every year to Congress. The fiscal 2012 report, obtained by The Washington Post, shows the agency collected about $499,000 in U.S. currency, and another $32,000 in foreign currency, at their checkpoints.

While this amount is literally small change compared to the agency’s ~$8 billion annual budget, it’s still too significant an amount to ignore. This unclaimed change is earmarked for “civil aviation security” — you know, the main thing that the TSA does. The agency is supposed to put the money back into the company, so to speak. But, if the following figure is accurate, it would appear the agency is operating at peak (in)efficiency.

[T]he TSA has only spent about $6,500 of the money it collected last year.

Well, if the agency can’t use it, maybe it could pass it on to those who could.

On Tuesday, the House passed H.R. 1095, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), which would require the TSA to fork that cash over to nonprofit organizations that provide travel-related assistance to military personnel or their families.

Good idea, one would think. But that would be before hearing how expensive giving money away can be when the TSA handles the job.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated [pdf] that collecting, accounting for and transferring the money to the USO would cost $1.2 million — $700,000 more than the actual amount collected.

The CBO’s two-page estimate is woefully light on details on how it arrived at its $1.2 million figure. It just sort of claims the costs will exceed $1 million, extrapolates this income/expenditure over a decade and states the whole thing will be a wash, even if the TSA’s spending steadily declines. To sum up: nothing ventured, nothing lost.

It seems there would be a very inexpensive way to route this money to charity. First off, each airport’s security team could designate a charity to route the funds to. Then… nothing. The TSA simply collects the change as usual and dumps it into the proper receptacle. The designated charity could pick this up quarterly (unintentional pun), count it themselves and turn over a receipt for record keeping to the TSA — all on their own dime (slightly less unintentional pun). Total cost to the TSA: nothing more than the hourly wage it already pays to have someone scoop up and store abandoned change.

End result? PR wins all around (especially if local charities are used) and the agency won’t be spending money to reroute money. In fact, donation boxes for the selected charity could be set up right past the scanners, allowing people to toss the change in themselves and restore a little faith in humanity after a trip through the TSA’s dehumanizing theatrical production.

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Comments on “TSA Collects Nearly $500,000 In Abandoned Change Per Year And Has No Idea What To Do With It”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Endorsing a charity would amount to government endorsement of speech, which is not good.

Likewise, just putting the money in a donation jar uncounted would leave agents free to run off with it, thus creating incentive for them to help people forget their change (and wallet).

The obvious solution is to have TSA agents do their jobs naked and run them through metal detectors when they enter or leave the workplace so that we can be sure no change is pilfered. And to prevent any speech improprieties the collected metals should be melted down and returned to the US Mint.

In light of this clear an reasonable solution it’s also quite clear why dealing with left-behind change is such an expensive proposition.

Anonymous Coward says:

how much does it take to say ‘there are plenty of charities as well as homeless people that would welcome even enough for a meal. better still, start up some soup kitchens or hostels. they would be well populated, given the state of the economy and the shit pit the government has put all the ordinary people in! try using some fucking imagination and sense!

out_of_the_blue says:

Obvious solution is for Techdirt to NOT worry about this,

and instead propose ways to get rid of TSA security theater. This is sheer distraction, waste of time all round. Even if the minion had the perfect solution for this trivial problem, then wouldn’t affect what’s called “the TSA’s dehumanizing theatrical production”.

Growing anger and violence among the 99% is mostly due to deliberate actions of the 1% to dumb-down, impoverish, harass, divide, and conquer. Here’s a typically lousy article that merely puzzles:

10:34:26[l-157-8] [ This suppresses the kids from fraud of using my screen name. ]

TimK (profile) says:

Having the pleasure of traveling by air last week, I of course opted out of being scanned and enjoyed a not-so-thorough pat down.

I’m a little torn by the whole thing. On one hand, I truly appreciate that the TSA officer didn’t come within 6 inches of my junk… on the other hand, it just shows how pointless the whole pat down process is if they aren’t even bothering to check the most obvious and most ideal hiding place.

Sure, he made certain I didn’t have any razor blades taped inside the neck of my T-shirt or to the bottom of my feet…. but I could’ve had 2 hand grenades and a bottle of lighter fluid in my crotch and he’d never know.

Anonymous Coward says:

Where'd the money go before TSA?

We’ve always had to empty the change out of our pockets before going through metal detectors. Before TSA, it wasn’t just travelers going to the gates. So even more people were emptying their pockets back then. Did the airport keep the money back then? Maybe that’s where the money ought to go.

(Maybe, since the checkpoints were simpler, less people were flustered enough to leave their change behind.)

WysiWyg (profile) says:

Not quite correct.

“[…] aimed at putting travelers’ minds at ease […]”

No Tim, it’s aimed at reminding travelers that there are Bad People out there that will Kill You if you don’t let the government do whatever they want, For Your Safety. And also Think Of The Children (unless an agent is groping said children at the time, then you should think about The Flag for a couple of minutes).

Anonymous Coward says:

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.

Abraham Lincoln
First Inaugural Address
Monday, March 4, 1861

By U.S. government standards today, you would most likely find this guy on a terrorist watch list.

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