Hundreds of thousands of dollars were left behind in the trays which are screened daily through U.S. airports. Most of the change left behind was in U.S. currency, but approximately $32,600 was in foreign currency, reported USA Today
According to the USA Today report, David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association
, said that people leave loose change behind for a variety of reasons, such as being in a rush, or, if heading to a foreign country, the change will not be useful for the trip, so they leave it. Another reason may be that coins are too much of a hindrance in an age where money is rooted as a plastic and electronic-centric form of currency.
"Many people aren't carrying change these days anyway," Stempler said. "It just weighs down in their pockets and purses. I know in the city I see a lot of people giving it to homeless people just to get rid of the change."
Reportedly New York's John F. Kennedy airport had, by far, the most passengers abandon their money. In 2010 the amount found left in the bins equated to $46,918.06. Los Angeles followed with $19,110.83 and at Hartsfield Atlanta International, $16,523.83 was found. San Francisco and Miami placed fourth and fifth, respectively.
$400,000 is a lot of money, so what is happening to it?
"TSA makes every effort to reunite passengers with items that they leave at checkpoints, however there are instances where loose change or other items are left behind," TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein told the New York Daily News
NBC San Diego
reported another TSA spokesperson, Nico Melendez, said after people leave the money behind in the plastic bins, at the end of each shift the agents on duty count the money, place it in an envelope and send it to the agency's finance office. Once there, the money is used towards general or technology costs, or spent on other items, such as lightbulbs.
Farbstein told the Daily News that in 2005 Congress gave permission to the TSA to spend the money for its general security operations, but the spokesperson noted the money is not included in the agency's annual budget.
The money seemingly isn't counted as a part of the agency's coffers because the amount may vary.
Melendez told NBC that recent years were pretty consistent, although based on the figures he gave the news agency, it appears the TSA is gaining an increase in findings each year. Total numbers reported in the NBC report were given as $364,000 for 2008 and $399,000 for 2009.
Republican Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida thinks the money should be used differently. He said the money should go to the United Service Organizations (USO) to help operate U.S. welcome centers set up at the airports for military members and he has initiated a legislative proposal outlining this.
“Allowing TSA to keep unclaimed taxpayer money for any and all purposes is an egregious breach of its duty to the public that it serves,” Rep. Jeff Miller wrote in a letter to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y, reported USA Today. “This money should be put to good use, and there is no better organization to use this money wisely than the USO.”
Media reports have shared suggestions from travelers which ranged from a "finders, keepers" perspective, and others say the money should go to charity and to those in need.
What do you think the TSA should do with the abandoned change? Should Congress' 2005 permission for the TSA to keep it stand?