For the Coast Guard, it’s all work and no pay

Other mil­i­tary branches get paid dur­ing shutdown, but mar­itime unit has to wait

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

Car­roll County res­i­dent Christy Ward’s hus­band is a chief war­rant of­fi­cer in the U.S. Coast Guard. He moon­lights as an EMT.

Two jobs were a lot, Ward said, but her hus­band’s been forced to pick up an­other gig teach­ing CPR at Car­roll Com­mu­nity Col­lege to make ends meet in light of the par­tial shutdown of the U.S. gov­ern­ment, which has forced ac­tive-duty Coast Guard mem­bers — among other fed­eral em­ploy­ees — to work with­out know­ing if or when they’ll be com­pen­sated.

The Coast Guard re­ceives fund­ing through the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, un­like the four other branches of the mil­i­tary, which are funded through the De­part­ment of De­fense. The Army, Navy, Air Force and Ma­rine Corps are paid dur­ing gov­ern­ment shut­downs. The coun­try’s “mar­itime first re­spon­der” is not.

Civil­ian em­ploy­ees of the guard have been fur­loughed, save for 1,300 “mis­sionessen­tial” per­son­nel. And the es­sen­tial civil­ian per­son­nel and ac­tive-duty mem­bers must re­port to work de­spite not know­ing the sta­tus of their next pay­check — they’re usu­ally paid on the first and 15th days of each month.

“As the spouse of a Coast Guards­man, you ex­pect to move all around the coun­try and to have your hus­band or wife called into ac­tion at a mo­ment’s no­tice,” Ward said. “Our son at­tended nine schools his en­tire life. … I al­ways say he said good­bye to more friends in his [18 years] than most peo­ple do in their en­tire life­time.”

Those are ex­pected hard­ships, she said, and her son, who grad­u­ated from Cen­tury High School in Car­roll County, han­dled it gra­ciously. “Not get­ting paid is not an ex­pected hard­ship, and it shouldn’t be an ac­cepted one,” Ward said.

Bills seeking to fund the Coast Guard dur­ing the par­tial shutdown have been in­tro­duced in both cham­bers of Congress. Rep. Dutch Rup­pers­berger, a Demo­crat rep­re­sent­ing Mary­land’s 2nd Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, which in­cludes the part of Anne Arun­del County that en­com­passes Cur­tis Bay Coast Guard Yard, signed on as a co-spon­sor of the Pay Our Coast Guard Par­ity Act of 2019.

“The pa­tri­otic mem­bers of the Coast Guard con­tinue to pa­trol our shores, risk­ing their lives to in­ter­dict drugs and pro­tect our sea­ports, in­clud­ing the Port of Bal­ti­more — all with­out pay,” Rup­pers­berger said in a state­ment. “Of all the many con­se­quences of this sense­less gov­ern­ment shutdown, this is one of the tough­est to swal­low. Our Coasties and their self­less fam­i­lies de­serve so much bet­ter.”

The 42,000 ac­tive mem­bers were paid on Dec. 31, said Amanda Faulkner, pub­lic af­fairs of­fi­cer for the guard’s Mid-At­lantic dis­trict. But if leg­is­la­tion is not passed or a res­o­lu­tion not reached by Mon­day, Coast Guard per­son­nel won’t re­ceive their Jan. 15 pay­check, she added.

The uncer­tainty of the next pay­check has left Coast Guard fam­i­lies in pre­car­i­ous po­si­tions. CG SUPRT, a Coast Guard program cre­ated to help fam­i­lies, made a tip sheet en­ti­tled “Manag­ing Your Fi­nances Dur­ing a Fur­lough.” It out­lined a seven-step process that in­structed fam­i­lies to un­der­stand the de­tails, cal­cu­late the num­bers, “get lean” and sup­ple­ment their in­comes, among other sug­ges­tions.

To sup­ple­ment their in­comes, the tip sheet sug­gested, fam­i­lies could put on a garage sale; sell big-ticket un­wanted items with news­pa­per or in­ter­net ads; babysit, pet sit or house sit; “turn your hobby into in­come”; tu­tor stu­dents; or “be­come a mys­tery shop­per.”

“It’s very in­sult­ing,” said Amy Win­gate of Bel Air, whose hus­band has been a Coast Guards­man for 22 years and whose old­est son is at Coast Guard boot camp in Cape May, New Jersey.

She said it’s not in­sult­ing be­cause she or oth­ers feel they are “above get­ting side jobs or work­ing,” but be­cause there’s a dou­ble stan­dard. “I feel like if this in­volved all the branches [of the mil­i­tary] it wouldn’t even be where it is now. There would be a huge out­cry­ing of our mil­i­tary not get­ting paid,” Win­gate said.

“The ma­jor­ity of peo­ple I’ve spo­ken with have said, ‘Oh, you’re mil­i­tary, you’re get­ting paid,’ but they don’t re­al­ize that we’re not.”

Rep. Andy Har­ris, a Repub­li­can rep­re­sent­ing Mary­land’s 1st Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, said House Bill 367, which would ap­pro­pri­ate money to pay the Coast Guard be­fore the shutdown was re­solved, was not yet ready for co-spon­sors. “But I be­lieve we should treat the Coast Guard like we treat all the other uni­formed ser­vices,” the con­gress­man said in a state­ment, adding that he had twice voted to fund home­land se­cu­rity, and blamed Democrats for the gov­ern­ment shutdown.

Some fam­i­lies won­der how much more fat can be trimmed from their bud­gets.

Carly Maulini and her hus­band, an ac­tive duty Guards­man of al­most 16 years, moved with their five chil­dren to An­napo­lis in July and were met im­me­di­ately by Christy Ward, whose hus­band is a chief war­rant of­fi­cer in the U.S. Coast Guard fi­nan­cial set­backs. Their car broke down and they had to re­place it; they had to ad­just to the higher cost of liv­ing.

“When you have five kids, you don’t have a lot of ex­tra money,” Maulini said in a phone in­ter­view. “Not know­ing what’s go­ing to hap­pen — and ev­ery­body still has to eat, my hus­band still has to drive back and forth to [Cur­tis Bay] ev­ery day — it’s just hard.”

Bal­ti­more res­i­dent Ju­lia Young’s fam­ily went from two in­comes to one when she lost her job re­cently. She’s been count­ing on her hus­band, a Coast Guards­man of 12 years, to pro­vide for her and their two chil­dren. Now with the par­tial shutdown, what were two in­comes could quickly be­come zero.

Young said they’ve been forced to tap into their 401(k), and know they’ll be pe­nal­ized for it the fol­low­ing year. If the shutdown drags on and Congress doesn’t ap­pro­pri­ate funds in the in­terim, Young said she’ll have to con­sider with­draw­ing her 4-year-old daugh­ter from preschool.

“I don’t want to take her out of preschool, but that’s sev­eral hun­dred dol­lars a month.”

Mean­while, ap­proach­ing his high school grad­u­a­tion rapidly, Young’s 17year-old son is think­ing about join­ing the Coast Guard, she said.

“He’s con­cerned,” Young added. “I don't know if it’s go­ing to change his mind — I hope it doesn’t — but he’s def­i­nitely re­think­ing some things.”

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