The government shutdown is hitting the Coast Guard hard. In a week when the Coast Guard started its ice-breaking patrols on the Great Lakes, the 41,000 members of the Coast Guard are wondering whether they’ll get their next paycheck, scheduled for Jan. 15. Right now they’re working without pay. And they and their families are not happy.
In Washington, the Coast Guard posted a five-page tipsheet on its website called “managing your finances during a furlough.” It suggested tutoring, “turning your hobby into income,” babysitting and holding garage sales. “Bankruptcy is a last option,” it said. The Coast Guard removed the tipsheet after it was reported on The Washington Post.
In Connecticut, the Coast Guard will still conduct emergency search-and-rescue operations, but it is curtailing many other functions. Not all cargo ships headed for ports in New Haven and New York City will be inspected, for example. “Things like monitoring recreation boats, boardings, issuing of merchant documentation and licensing, fishing enforcement patrols and aids to navigation maintenance – those are the kinds of things that get pushed back,” Petty Officer Zachary Hupp in the Boston Public Affairs Office told The Connecticut Post.
Across the country, Coast Guard families are feeling pinched. Neighbors of Coast Guard members in Alameda, California, are organizing a food drive to help out. A Coast Guard wife in Jacksonville, Florida, says simply that “families are freaking out.” And a military-oriented food bank on Cape Cod started helping 200 families a day; it usually serves a dozen or so.
The problem is that the Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which is affected by the shutdown. Other branches of the military fall under the Defense Department, and they are still being paid.
In a strongly worded editorial, Admiral Thad Allen, the retired Commandant of the Coast Guard, wrote in Proceedings Magazine that leaders of the government “have subordinated the general welfare of their fellow citizens to parochial interests.” Himself the son of a Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer, Admiral Allen wrote, “While this political theater endures, there are junior Coast Guard Petty Officers, with families, who are already compensated at levels below the national poverty level, who will not be paid during this government shutdown.”
In Alameda, one resident, Linda Chiu, posted to a large group on Facebook that the shutdown was pretty tough for many families at the large Coast Guard base there. She urged local residents to help The East Bay Coast Guard Spouses who were holding a food drive. They wanted nonperishable items – boxes of cereal, canned goods, peanut butter, laundry detergent, soap, diapers, baby wipes and formula.
And in Jacksonville, Melissa Wayfill, whose husband has been in the Coast Guard for 20 years and is now a Chief Petty Officer, told News4, “The security net that we usually just feel, I think, it’s really disappeared for a lot of families. We don’t know if the Coast Guard is going to be funded, we don’t know if Homeland Security is going to be funded, if one or the other or part or none, and families are freaking out.” Read more: