Rushing through airport security is rarely a fun experience, but travelers may want to consider taking a moment to double- or triple-check their belongings, according to figures provided in the US Department of Homeland Security's "Unclaimed Money at Airports" report.
The DHS document, which reviews the fiscal year 2018, reports the department's TSA collected a total $960,105.49 in unclaimed money from airport security checkpoints across the nation — a reasonable uptick from $869,839.56 in FY 2017.
It's not just a few coins that air travelers have carelessly left behind. Paper money, both American and foreign, was also collected from unclaimed wallets found by TSA agents.
"TSA always seeks to make sure that all traveler property, including loose change, finds its way back to the proper owner. However, when loose change does not, it will be directed to critical aviation security programs," DHS claims.
Of the airports that reported forgotten funds, the top three are New York's JFK International ($72,392.74), Los Angeles International ($71,748.83) and Miami International ($50,504.49). Travelers at Wyoming's Natrona County International Airport left the smallest amount in 2018, totaling $204.89.
While more than $900,000 is quite the chunk of change, it should not be assumed that these funds are going into TSA agents' pockets.
"If a TSA employee even takes a quarter or a dime, they would be fired," TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein told Vox. "There's no excuse for that. It's a matter of integrity."
Furthermore, the DHS release states that after an airport collects the unclaimed cash, a receipt of the funds is deposited into the Transportation Security Administration's "Special Fund" account, so it may be "tracked easily and subsequently expended."
The funds, which TSA is required to report to Congress, are said to be directed toward improving the nation's aviation security programs.
While the TSA had a $7.58 billion budget in 2018, security improvements funded by travelers' loose change consisted of security checkpoint maintenance, sign translation into various languages, TSA PreCheck and "Adjudication Center system enhancements." All such expenditures listed for 2018 appear to be recent, as they were not listed in DHS' 2017 report.
Many lawmakers have suggested the administration direct the funds to other places, previously proposing a bill called the 2013 TSA Loose Change Act, which suggested the money go to organizations that provide military servicemembers and their families with "places of rest and recuperation." The bill passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support, but stopped at the Senate.