The partial government shutdown hit home for Coast Guard civilian employees on Friday, Jan. 11, as they went without pay. Active-duty Coast Guardsmen are watching to see if they will be paid this week.
There are four civilians working at Coast Guard Station Tillamook Bay in Garibaldi along with 39 active-duty personnel and 26 reservists. At the Depoe Bay Coast Guard station there are 34 active duty members. At Yaquina Head Station in Newport, there are 50 active duty personnel and 12 reservists. Their most recent payday was Dec. 31, with civilians expecting to be paid on Jan. 11, and military personnel scheduled for a Jan. 15 payday.
Coast Guard Lt. Russell Tippets said the government shutdown is strictly affecting pay. Essential operations such as search and rescue, pollution response and port security continue to be carried out, but some lower priority work such as marine credentialing and licensing has ceased for the time being.
Evidence that the Coast Guard is still on watch was seen just days ago when a crabbing boat capsized in rough seas at near Newport. A rescue craft was immediately deployed to escort the troubled vessel, followed by another rescue craft and a helicopter once the boat was located. Tragically, none of the three men aboard the capsized boat survived.
“Any time there is a search and rescue case we’ll give it our full attention,” Tippets said. “The station is still fully-manned with all of our active-duty employees. Out on the coast with these horrible weather conditions, we need to be ready to respond if there is a mariner in distress.”
The willingness to serve under potentially deadly conditions, and to go without pay if necessary while doing so, demonstrates the dedication to service that is fundamental for military personnel. Tippets said those who join the Coast Guard have a commitment to serving their country, also citing the draw of the humanitarian aspect in saving lives at sea.
However, that doesn’t keep the lights on and feed the family. Like many Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck, the typical Coast Guardsman cannot afford to miss a payday. Tippets said there are financial counselors available for those who need advice on short-term solutions, and some banking institutions have created loan programs with little or no interest to help avert the crisis.
Tippets said senior Coast Guard leadership would meet today and address the available financial resources for service members.
The Coast Guard took down a webpage advising service members to find creative solutions such as hosting garage sales, babysitting, or serving as a “mystery shopper.” A Coast Guard spokesperson told the military newspaper Stars and Stripes that the advice did not reflect the current efforts to assist personnel.
The Oregon Food Bank recently voiced reassurance that those impacted by the partial government shutdown still had a place to turn for food assistance. A statement from the agency highlighted the accessibility of its mobile-friendly database, a guide to the locations and hours of meal sites and food pantries in Oregon.
Oregon Department of Human Services said SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits were secure at least through January and February for the 615,000 Oregonians in the program. Oregon Food Bank said as it understands, WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) funding was stable through February, and school meal funding was secure through March.
“We know firsthand that past government shutdowns have led to unnecessary drops in enrollment and benefit redemption due to confusion and misinformation,” Oregon Food Bank said in its statement.
Sen. Jeff Merkley pushed for paying the Coast Guard, saying as it continues to protect Oregon, its members are stressing over missed paychecks. On Thursday, Jan. 10, Merkley co-sponsored the Pay Our Coast Guard Act, a bipartisan bill that would pay salaries to members of the U.S. Coast Guard during the partial shutdown.
“Coast Guard members are risking their lives to keep Oregon’s coasts safe, yet are stressing over missed payments on mortgages, rents, utilities, child care and more,” Merkley said. “This is irresponsible and unacceptable, and we need to make sure our military members feel secure in their daily lives while they’re protecting our nation.”
The bipartisan Pay Our Coast Guard Act appropriates money to pay salaries and allowances to members of the Coast Guard, civilian employees of the Coast Guard, and contractors. It also authorizes payments for death benefits, funeral travel and allowances for housing. The bill would only come into effect if there were no interim or full-year appropriation for the Coast Guard.
The partial government shutdown began Dec. 22 after President Donald Trump and lawmakers failed to agree on money for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. Trump insisted that $5.7 billion in wall funding be added to federal spending legislation needed to keep the government operating.
Follow this developing story at thenewsguard.com, and in the Wednesday print editions of The News Guard