42,000 active-duty U.S. Coast Guard members have missed their first paycheck due to the government shutdown. Coast Guard members are continuing to work without pay on essential duties “that provide for national security or that protect life and property during partial government shutdowns,” such as securing U.S. ports and coastlines, search-and-rescue missions, and environmental events.
Active-duty personnel who work in other branches of the military continue to receive pay as they are funded by the Department of Defense, which continues to receive funding during a partial government shutdown. However, the U.S. Coast Guard falls under Homeland Security, one of the nine departments affected by the shutdown. Others include the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior, the Department of State, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Justice. The Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, and the Smithsonian have all shut down as they are under the umbrella of one of the nine department closures.
On January 4th, a bipartisan bill was introduced in Congress called the Pay Our Coast Guard Act. It would allow members of the U.S. Coast Guard as well as its civilian employees and contractors to be paid throughout the shutdown. The bill which is sponsored by Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio, and has support from 29 Democrats and 10 Republicans. South Carolina Congressman Joe Cunningham cosponsored the bill.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine said in a statement that “hundreds of thousands of federal employees and their families are being harmed by the partial government shutdown. This situation is especially unfair for those who must work without pay, including members of the Coast Guard who continue to perform critical national security and lifesaving duties without knowing when they will receive their next paycheck,” she said.
All around the country, groups are holding food drives for Coast Guard members and civilian employees who have been furloughed. Admiral Karl L. Schultz announced that a $15 million donation has been made to the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance program by the United States Automobile Association. Funds will be distributed by the American Red Cross to aid service members who are having financial difficulties during the shutdown.
“I am grateful for the outpouring of support across the country, particularly in local communities, for our men and women,” Schultz wrote. “It is a direct reflection of the American public’s sentiment towards their United States Coast Guard; they recognize the sacrifice that you and your family make in service to your country.”
Congress passed a bill Friday called the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019 which will retroactively pay Coast Guard members and civilian employees, but it will not go into effect until after the shutdown ends. It has been presented to the President.
The partial shutdown of the federal government is in its fourth week. As of January 12th, it became the longest partial shutdown in U.S. history, surpassing a 21-day record set in 1995.
Work at sea is some of the most dangerous work in the world. Maritime workers and fishermen rely on the U.S. Coast Guard as first responders and safety agents.