Airport Loose Change Bill Diverts Coins From TSA to Military Nonprofits

Thursday, 05 Dec 2013 10:16 AM

By Michael Mullins

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An airport loose change bill passed by the House would give military-affiliated nonprofits the approximately $500,000 in quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies collected annually at airport screening stations and currently going into TSA coffers.

If passed by the Senate, the bill would benefit nonprofits like the United Service Organization, which operates airport rest stations for traveling service members in 40 major airports across the country. Military personnel are exclusively provided with food and other amenities at the rest stops, USA Today reported.

"Any pocket change we would get from this would go to helping out troops and their families," USO spokeswoman Gena Fitzgerald told Bloomberg News. "If this passes, we’ll be thrilled -- not just us, but the troops that we serve will be thrilled."

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The lead sponsor of the TSA Loose Change Act was Republican Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, who chairs the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.

"What may seem like a small amount of change left behind... actually amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars each year," Miller said following the bill's passage, USA Today reported.

The bill "would ensure that thousands of coins, when bundled together, will be used in support of millions of our nation's warriors," the congressman added.

Miller had introduced the bill for several years, but this is the first time it made it to the House floor.

Under the current law, the TSA is allowed to keep the loose change collected which it says it uses "for the purpose of providing civil aviation security."

According to agency officials, TSA agents are required to make a reasonable effort to return the abandoned change to its owner, only after which point the money is added to the collection.

TSA agents collected more than $531,000 in cash — almost all of it in coin form, and about 6 percent of it in foreign currency — that travelers left behind at airport screening stations in fiscal 2012, according to the most recent data provided by the agency.

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The most money collected in fiscal 2012 was at Miami International where TSA agents acquired $39,613 from check points, followed by $26,900 at McCarran International that serves Las Vegas and Chicago's O'Hare International where $22,116 was collected.

In comparison, $487,870 was collected by the TSA in fiscal 2011 and $409,086 in 2010.

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