Loose change collected at airport security could benefit USO, other nonprofits

Dec. 07--Travelers leave behind a lot of loose change as they pass through airport security checkpoints -- $531,395.22 in fiscal year 2012 to be exact, according to a federal report.

That change might soon end up in the pockets of nonprofit organizations that help air travelers.

The TSA Loose Change Act, passed Tuesday by the U.S. House of Representatives, would send coins collected by the Transportation Security Administration to organizations like the United Service Organization, which provides lounges for service members and their families to rest before flights.

At individual airports, the amount collected ranged from $36,913 at Miami International Airport to $1.70 at Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport in Guam.

Hilton Head Island Airport did not have a loose-change tally in the report, but three others in the region did.

Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport collected $449.53; Columbia Metropolitan Airport collected $1,376.29; and Charleston International Airport collected $1,449.87.

Previously, the collected change would go back into the TSA's general fund. Of the $531,000 collected in 2012, only about $6,500 was spent, for translating airport checkpoint signs into different languages and "administrative overhead," according to the TSA report.

USO Georgia president Mary Lou Austin said she would welcome additional money if the bill passes the Senate and becomes law. Austin said the Georgia chapter of the nonprofit organization operates two airport lounges benefiting military members -- one in Savannah and one at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport.

"We would love to hear good news," she said. "We're not lobbying for it. We're strictly neutral. We would welcome the funds and the honor to help the military. That's who we serve."

Lori Lynah, Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport's director of marketing and air service development, said the change would be welcomed by local USO representatives. Lynah joked that the total collected at Savannah's security checkpoint was embarrassingly low.

"We get a lot of military traffic through the airport, so anything that can benefit the USO is definitely welcome," she said. "I'm sure the USO would greatly appreciate it. They already get wonderful donations from passengers coming through the airport."

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

Copyright 2013 - The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.)

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