- The record-long government shutdown has deprived Coast Guard members of two paychecks.
- Service leaders are encouraging members to take advantage of assistance being offered, like loans and donations.
- They’re also warning members about incorrect or misleading information circulating amid the lapse.
Thirty-five days into the record-long US government shutdown, some 8,000 civilian employees of the US Coast Guard will miss their second paycheck, “marking another milestone during this prolonged lapse in appropriations,” vice commandant Adm. Charles Ray said in a January 25 letter.
The service’s roughly 41,000 active-duty members and several thousand reservists ” should be preparing for a similar reality” on February 1, the letter adds.
The Coast Guard is the only military branch housed outside the Department of Defence, which received its full funding for 2019 in the fall. Funding for the Homeland Security Department, of which the Coast Guard is part, was not approved before the government shutdown in December over a dispute between President Donald Trump and Congress over money for a wall Trump wants to build on the US-Mexico border.
While the Coast Guard was able to find funds for the service’s December 31 paychecks, January looks to pass with two missed paydays – a gap that has left many service members having to rely on charity and other assistance to make ends meet.
Communities around the country have rallied to support Coast Guard families with food banks, donations, discounts, and delays on collection of utility bills and rent.
In his letter, Ray urges Coast Guard members to take advantage of the assistance being offered.
“One of my greatest concerns is that our organizational culture or personal pride may prevent some of us from asking for help in a time of need,” Ray writes. “Please do not let this happen – to yourself, your peers, or anyone in your chain of command. Today’s challenges are not your fault. This assistance will only help ease the financial burden you are shouldering.”
Ray announced that Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, a nonprofit charitable group that works with the service, had again raised limits on the interest-free loans it was offering to service members and was expanding the eligibility to retirees and annuitants. The loans also come with a 30-day grace period and repayment spread over five months.
A loan from CGMA or from another provider “will not impact your security clearance or reflect negatively in your evaluations,” Ray’s letter adds.
Ray’s letter also expresses concern about “misinformation” that may provide “incorrect information” to Coast Guard families and encourages service members to check official sources for updated information during the shutdown.
Current and former service leaders have decried duration of the shutdown and its effects on service members and their families.
In a video posted Thursday, Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told service members that, “You as members of the armed forces should not be expected to shoulder this burden.”
The outpouring of assistance was heartening, Schultz added, “But ultimately I find it unacceptable that Coast Guard men and women have to rely food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life.”
In a column this week titled “Breaking Faith with America’s Coast Guard,” Schultz’s predecessor, retired Adm. Paul Zukunft, said the shutdown and hardship it has caused has pushed the service into “uncharted waters.”
“To add insult to injury, the Coast Guard is no longer ‘doing more with less,’ but ‘doing all with nothing,'” Zukunft wrote. “This current government shutdown is doing long-term harm.”
In a January 23 op-ed, the Coast Guard’s former top enlisted man and his deputy wrote that the service’s recent deployment of the cutter Bertholf with nearly 200 personnel for a scheduled six-month national-security mission in the Pacific filled them with a range of emotions – from pride in the service, to fear for service members and families uncertain about their pay, “to anger that these brave men and women (and their families) should have to be subjected to such absurdity in 2019.”
“To our congressional and administration leadership, we say: We are so ashamed of you,” the former master chief petty officer and his deputy wrote.
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