Lawmaker files bill to grant TSA employees unemployment benefits

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As the federal government shutdown enters its fifth week, a state lawmaker hopes to offer some relief to employees working without pay.

"These are our neighbors and these are our fellow churchgoers.  These are members of this great state and the state has a responsibility to ensure their welfare," explained State Senator Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur.

Sen. Jones filed Senate Bill 27 Thursday.  The legislation would update the eligibility for unemployment benefits in Georgia to include anyone who is "furloughed by the federal government on or after December 22, 2018, as a result of a federal government shutdown and performs services during the furlough without remuneration." 

Jones specifically designed the legislation to help Transportation Security Administration employees who have been working at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport without pay. 

"TSA workers are critical to keeping our airports and airplanes safe and they are working right now and we need to make sure they're able to pay their bills," said State Senator John Albers, R-Roswell, a co-sponsor of the bill.  "Those who are furloughed currently that are home can accept unemployment, but those who are working cannot.  That doesn't work."

Friday, hundreds of TSA workers and their families lined up at a pop-up food pantry near the airport to pick up food from the Atlanta Community Food Bank. 

Brenda Thompson, whose husband is a TSA worker, said she supports the law change.

"Every little bit helps.  Not only for us, but there are people who are certainly living paycheck to paycheck and who are very challenged," said Thompson.  "So, if they were to do that, that would be awesome.  That would be great for everybody." 

The measure must still make its way through committee and lawmakers in both the Senate and the House must approve it before it can go to the governor's desk for his signature.