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Paychecks not guaranteed for local 'Coasties'

Alexander Sinn • Jan 1, 2019 at 9:00 AM

More than 80 U.S. Coast Guard members stationed in Grand Haven will receive a paycheck despite the government shutdown, thanks to action taken Friday night by the Department of Homeland Security.

Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray announced Friday that the DHS had found a way to pay employees, despite a partial shutdown that began Dec. 22 as Congress could not pass a federal budget. 

Coast Guard members have continued to carry out their duties despite the possibility of doing so unpaid. Until a budget is passed, they are not guaranteed a paycheck in January.

Grand Haven resident Jessica Douglas is the wife of a 20-year active duty Coast Guard member. The Douglases and their two children are fortunate enough to get by without a paycheck if necessary, she said, but the shutdown could take a greater toll on junior enlisted members.

“All of these families are literally trying to figure out how they’re going to feed their family, how they’re going to pay rent,” Douglas said.

The Coast Guard is a branch of the military, but unlike the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, its funding comes from the Homeland Security budget, not the Department of Defense. The DOD and the Department of Veterans Affairs are both funded and are not impacted by the shutdown. 

The shutdown represents a lapse in funding totaling $75 million, and impacts about 42,000 service members in the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard website is not being updated during the shutdown, but a message posted on the site said the service will continue operations for national security and protection of life and property. Some operations and activities are suspended.

The U.S. Postal Service has remained open during the shutdown, but some national parks have closed and other agency operations suspended.

The shutdown hinged on President Trump’s desire for funding of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, while Democrats are opposed to the investment.

Negotiations will resume when Congress reconvenes Jan. 3, with a new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.

A federal shutdown in early 2018 did not freeze Coast Guard paychecks, Douglas said, but the second shutdown of the year, this time over the holidays, has caused stress for families.

“Things in Washington feel so far away, but when the person who may have helped you out on the lake or given you a tour during Coast Guard Festival doesn’t know how to feed their family, it’s terrible,” she said.

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