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Alaska travelers leave $3,600 in TSA security bins

Dermot Cole
Each year, the Transportation Security Administration collects thousands of dollars in pocket change left behind by air travelers. Now some lawmakers would like to see that money used to support the USO. Ben Dalton / cc via flickr

FAIRBANKS -- Alaska travelers left almost $3,600 in spare change at airport security gates in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau in fiscal year 2012.

The loose change was part of a  half-million-dollar haul of nickels, dimes, quarters and pennies at U.S. airports. While paper bills remain tucked away in wallets or purses, handfuls of coins are often dumped into the containers and forgotten like coins in a fountain, to be collected and counted later.

“In most cases,” the Transportation Security Administration says, “this consists of coins passengers remove from their pockets so that metal detectors do not sound.”

Passengers in Anchorage did not pick up $3,172 from the plastic bins, while in Fairbanks the yearly total was $212. In Juneau, passengers forgot a total of $189, according to a TSA report released early this year.

On Dec. 3, the U.S. House approved the “TSA Loose Change Act” that would require the agency to donate the money to the USO, to help pay for services where it operates in airports across the U.S. The measure is pending in the Senate.

Passengers left behind an average of $465,285 a year from 2009 to 2012, according to a House committee.

The existing law says the money is to be retained by TSA for security improvements, but as of last March 1, the agency had spent $6,539. The airport where people left the most money behind was Miami, with $39,613. In Seattle, the total was about $6,900.

Earlier this year, Congress approved the “Clothe a Homeless Hero Act,” saying clothing left behind at security should be donated to veterans’ groups.

Contact Dermot Cole at dermot(at)alaskadispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcole