Active duty members of the U.S. Coast Guard did not receive their first paychecks of the year, thanks to the ongoing government shutdown, but they could have access to a recent donation of $15 million, the head of the Coast Guard announced Tuesday.
Tuesday may mark the first time in the history of the U.S. that an armed branch of the military was not paid “during a lapse in government appropriations,” Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl Schultz said in a statement.
“I recognize the anxiety and uncertainty this situation places on you and your family, and we are working closely with service organizations on your behalf,” Schultz said.
Schultz also revealed the United Services Automobile Association donated $15 million to the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance fund, which will be distributed to “military and civilian workforce requiring assistance.” The American Red Cross will assist with distributing the funds, according to Schultz.
Unlike the other branches of the military, which operate under the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security funds the Coast Guard, including payroll for service members and civilian employees. An estimated 42,000 Coast Guard employees are forced to work without pay as the longest U.S. federal government shutdown continues. Overall, up to 88 percent of Homeland Security personnel are also working without pay.
“It is also not lost on me that our dedicated civilians are already adjusting to a missed paycheck — we are confronting this challenge together,” Schultz said Tuesday.
The American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) will be administering a program that will “provide financial support” to Coast Guard members who did not receive their scheduled paychecks during the shutdown, a spokesperson for the aid organization told HuffPost.
For now, Coast Guard members can access this financial assistance by applying through the organization’s Hero Care Center or calling 1-877-272-7337.
President Donald Trump has been unable to convince Democrats in Congress to allocate $5.7 billion in the federal budget for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall. Democrats also won’t budge from the $1.3 billion set aside for border security currently in the budget. Negotiations remain at a standstill, resulting in the 24-day-long shutdown.
Since Dec. 22, when the shutdown began, an estimated 420,000 federal workers are being forced to work without pay, according to the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
Schultz on Tuesday encouraged Coast Guard members to continue working with pride despite the stalled paychecks.
“You have proven time and again the ability to rise above adversity,” he said. “Stay the course, stand the watch, and serve with pride. You are not, and will not, be forgotten.”
Numerous organizations have stepped up to the plate to provide support to federal workers who in financial straits due to the shutdown. The Massachusetts Military Foundation last week set up a pop-up pantry for Coast Guard members and fed almost 400 families in its first two days, according to NPR.
Stacey A. Benson, a Coast Guard spouse stationed in Astoria, Oregon, told HuffPost last week that local businesses in her community are offering support to active duty Coast Guard members through free dinners, coffee and services, including workout classes and haircuts.
Benson noted that she and her family will be financially stable during the shutdown thanks to her full-time job at the military-focused the nonprofit Semper Fi Fund and their family’s emergency savings. Still, she is concerned for others who might be having a more difficult time during the shutdown.
“As always, we are concerned for our Coast Guard community overall,” she told HuffPost last Thursday. “I am trying to be a beacon of light for our local Coast Guard community.”