Three fixes to keep the Coast Guard paid that probably won’t go anywhere

Matt Saintsing
January 10, 2019 - 11:54 am

National Guard photo by John Hughel, Oregon Military Depatment Public Affairs

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By the Coast Guard’s own admission, nearly one in three of active duty service members do not have enough savings to cover one month’s worth of expenses, including rent, food, and childcare. 

Congress has traditionally paid all federal employees retroactively for work done during the government shutdown of years past, but Coasties and their families need to pay their bills now. 

RELATED: Veterans to White House, Congress: Fix Coast Guard pay…now

While the ongoing shutdown rages, throwing a wrench into the daily lives of people sworn to protect our coastal borders, three legislative fixes would make them whole. 

Pay Our Coast Guard Parity Act

The bipartisan bill, which Army veteran Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) has attached his name to, would provide funding for the Coast Guard and make sure active duty and reserve Coasties will be paid throughout the shutdown. 

“It is appalling that these brave service members, who are currently patrolling and protecting our coastal borders, would be forced to work without a paycheck,” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), bill’s chief sponsor, said in a statement.

“My legislation guarantees that members of the Coast Guard are paid on time and in full, even if the President chooses to continue this absurd government shutdown.”  

The bill was introduced on Jan. 8. 

RELATED: Food Banks prepare to support Coast Guard Families during shutdown

Pay Our Coast Guard Act of 2019

Currently sitting at the House Appropriations Committee since Jan. 9, the bill introduced by Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.), would also fund the Coast Guard during what he called the “Washington created government shutdown.” 

The sea service may have some political pull with Van Drew due to his state being home to three Coast Guard installations, two of which are in his district in southern New Jersey. 

 (No really) Pay Our Coast Guard Act

Hoping on over to the Senate for a bit, South Dakota Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) put forward the bill on Jan. 3, the first day of the new congressional session. It has bipartisan support with 15 co-sponsors, both Republican and Democrat.

The legislation introduced at the request of several military and veteran organizations, who signed onto a letter sent to Thune in December. 

The bill is similar to one Thune sponsored during the 2015 shutdown. 

All of the above have been introduced and are awaiting additional Congressional action. 

But paychecks aren’t the only benefit Coast Guard personnel will have to go without as the shutdown enters its third week. A message sent to Coasties Wednesday said, “due to the current lapse in appropriations, the tuition assistance program has been suspended.” 

“New applicants will be added to a waitlist and processed accordingly once the lack of appropriations is resolved.”

Tuition Assistance (TA) is free college that can cover up to $250 for each semester credit hour that service members earn, with a $4,500 limit each fiscal year. It’s (usually) a great benefit that service members on active duty in the reserves or serving in the National Guard can take advantage of without having to use their GI Bill. 

Fun fact: the most extended ever government shutdown lasted 21 days in 1995 when Bill Clinton was in office. Friday marks the 21st day, and there’s no end in sight. That’s one way to thank Coast Guardsmen for their service.

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