Dec. 24--The Transportation Security Administration is holding onto well over half a million dollars worth of change left at security checkpoints, though next year it might be put to a new use at places such as Pittsburgh International Airport.
In 2012, TSA collected $531,395.22 in unclaimed money from screening checkpoints, according to the agency's annual report to Congress. Since 2005, the agency has had authority to use the money for airport security operations.
Records show the agency tapped into about $6,500 of it to purchase checkpoint signs in foreign languages and "other administrative overhead."
Rep. Scott Miller, R-Florida, sponsored legislation to re-direct the lost-and-found money toward airport lounges for military members and their families. The bill unanimously passed the House of Representatives in early December. Representatives from Miller's office said they hope the Senate will take up the bill in early 2014.
At the Pittsburgh International Airport, a volunteer program maintains a Military and Family Courtesy Center next to Gate A4. It's unclear if the airport would qualify as a nonprofit under the bill, said Jeff Martinelli, public affairs manager for the Pittsburgh Airport Authority.
"If we meet the regulation or criteria, we would certainly be interested in applying," Martinelli said.
The lounge has seen more than 5,500 visitors through its doors since it opened in 2008, Martinelli said, with work stations, television, sofas and snacks for military members passing through Pittsburgh International Airport.
In 2012, travelers at Pittsburgh International left behind $8,081.55. Travelers in Philadelphia left another $6,960.78.
Unclaimed money, typically loose coins removed from pockets during screenings, is documented and turned in to TSA. Ann Davis, aregional TSA spokeswoman, said the agency "makes every effort to reunite passengers with items left at the checkpoints. However, there are instances where loose change or other items are left behind and unclaimed."
The sole member of Pennsylvania's House delegation to co-sponsor Miller's bill was Republican Rep. Patrick Meehan. His southeastern district is directly adjacent to the Philadelphia International Airport, where the USO operates a military lounge.
"The least we can do for the men and women who serve our country in uniform is to use this money to support USO lounges where our traveling war-fighters are welcomed," Meehan said in a statement support of the legislation.
Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8511 or email@example.com.
Copyright 2013 - The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Northwest Florida's U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller has been trying since 2009 to halt the practice and divert the collected coins to the USO
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