COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - For the first time in our nation’s history, servicemembers in a branch U.S. Armed Force are not being paid as the partial government shutdown approaches the one month mark.
According to a Coast Guard spokesperson, around 150,000 active duty, reservists, retirees, civilians, and auxiliarists are being affected by the lapse in appropriations. Unlike other military branches, the Coast Guard falls under the command of the Department of Homeland Security, not the Department of Defense.
A special approval worked out between the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Coast Guard secured pay for the month of December. However, payroll in January and February will require 2019 appropriations, according to the Coast Guard.
If the partial shutdown is not resolved by February 1, retirees could stand to lose their retirement payments.
Vincent Patton, a 30-year veteran of the Coast Guard, retired in 2002 as Master Chief Petty Officer. He currently lives in Canada with his wife but frequently travels to Washington D.C. for work. He said paychecks aren’t the only thing caught in the crosshairs of the shutdown.
“My concern is when you start worrying about expenses and taking care of your family it does become a problem as far as safety and security,” Patton said. “They are highly trained service men and women and they need to be 100 percent focused on the goal day in and day out.”
Additionally, Patton said morale is low and will continue to worsen as the partial shutdown continues.
“Over a period of time, people will start looking at this and say it’s not worth it,” he said. “We’re keeping some very talented, top-notch people at pennies to the dollar compared to what they can do on the outside. They do it because they love it. But as morale continues to suffer, then their interest in wanting to do the work is going to diminish.”
Michelle Carpenter of Irmo is a 21-year veteran of the Coast Guard, retiring in 2011. She uses her monthly retirement paycheck to help pay her mortgage. Without it, she’s worried.
“I’ve been stashing stuff away and I’m not going out and doing stuff,” she said. “I’m saving my money.”
Carpenter fears the February 1 deadline as it would mean she would not receive her retirement check.
“I worked for 21 years. I went in every day and did my job and, you know, what are our congressmen doing?” she said. “But, I have 12 more business days until then. So, there’s hope.”
According to the Washington Post, the Coast Guard saw a nearly five-time increase in the number of migrants it stopped off the coast of Southern California in 2018. Some experts say it highlights the challenges that will remain even if President Trump secures funding needed for the border wall.