Coast Guard braces for pay pinch


NEWPORT –– Through a slow Monday afternoon, a few members of Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay went about their work, four weeks into the government shutdown.

Despite the Coast Guard operating nationwide without pay during the longest government shutdown in American history, officers at Yaquina Bay said the local Coast Guard members are doing fine, for now.

“Everybody made preparations in advance,” said executive petty officer Jason McCommons. “People paid bills ahead of time and stocked up on supplies.”

In late December, Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Charles W. Ray announced to all active and enlisted Coast Guard service members the news that because of a one-time action, all military personnel would receive their paychecks for work through Dec. 31.

However, in the two weeks since the new year, no work done since midnight Jan. 1 has been compensated because that would require a fiscal year 2019 action, continuing resolution or passage of an alternative measure.

Local Coast Guard officers didn’t expect that the Jan. 15 paycheck, the first one of the new year, would come this week. But if they don’t get that paycheck or the one after it by Feb. 1, that could cause real trouble.

“We’re still waiting to see what the long-term effect is,” McCommons said. “We’ll feel the first impacts Feb. 1. That’s when the local pinch will be felt.”

Outpouring of support

A variety of organizations are stepping in to help those in the Coast Guard during the government shutdown, including the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Fund, the Coast Guard Foundation, the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association and Enlisted Association and the Coast Guard Spouses Club. Anyone interested in helping service members of the Coast Guard can donate to these groups, which will use the donations to assist with keeping Coast Guard members afloat until the government takes action.

“Being a nonprofit, we’re not affiliated with the Coast Guard, so we’re able to receive any kind of monetary donations, whether that’s a check, cash or gift cards,” said Chief Petty Officer Kevin Sweetman, president of the Chief Petty Officers Association in North Bend. “What we do is give that back to Coast Guard members and their families.”

Station Yaquina Bay is set to get help from the Chief Petty Officers Association, which so far received close to $3,000 in gift cards, checks and cash, Sweetman said.

According to McCommons, some local organizations and many individuals have offered to give to the local Coast Guard. There are some legal ramifications to accepting assistance, though, and those who want to give to local Coast Guard families or individual service members have to go through certain channels.

“We run into legal and ethical things,” McCommons said. “We appreciate the help the community has been offering up until now, but we are waiting to see what happens. We have to be careful of what we are able to accept.”

Shortly after the start of the government shutdown, The Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Fund offered financial help to members of the Coast Guard, with married service members getting $550 and single service members getting $350. Navy Federal Credit Union, too, offered a loan to help officers in need.

Organizations connected to the Coast Guard aren’t the only ones to help out local officers. Central Lincoln People’s Utility District, too, has tools in place that Coast Guard service members can take advantage of.

“We’re happy to work with any customer having trouble paying their bill on time,” said Chris Chandler, public information officer for Central Lincoln PUD. “It’s worked out on a case-by-case basis.”

The utility district has a pre-paid program in which customers can pay as they go, paying for electricity the way they pay for gas.

“That can prevent high bills,” Chandler said. “We take payments as low as $5, which might be a bit more manageable.”

If you want to help...

These are a few organizations that have worked with the local Coast Guard stations to provide resources and support during times like the federal government shutdown. For more information about donating money or tangible items to the Coast Guard or to find out how else you can help, contact these organizations.

Coast Guard Mutual Assistance

1005 N. Glebe Rd., Suite 220

Arlington, Va. 22201

703-875-0404

Cgmahq.org

 

Coast Guard Foundation

394 Taugwonk Rd.

Stonington, Conn. 06378

860-535-0786

Coastguardfoundation.org

 

U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association

5220-G Hempstead Way

Springfield, Va. 22151

Uscgcpoa.org

 

National Council of Coast Guard Spouses’ Clubs

Nationalcouncilofcgsc.org



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