The government has been partially shut down since December 22, but in his attempt to ensure border security, President Trump is only hurting the men and women who protect our coastlines.
The United States government has been in partial shutdown since December 22. The shutdown is the result of lawmakers’ inability to reach a decision on new spending bills, which include legislation diverting federal funding to Trump’s Mexican border wall plan. Because of the shutdown, nine federal departments are closed, including Homeland Security, as well as several government agencies.
Collectively, more than 380,000 federal employees are not working, while 420,000 are working without pay. While Congress has ensured that the Department of Defense, which houses the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, will still receive funding, they have not done the same for the Coast Guard, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security. While there is talk of plans to offer the same security to the Coast Guard, current Coast Guard members did not get their first paycheck of 2019 on Jan. 15, and those who are furloughed will not be paid at all.
Currently, 42,000 Coast Guard members have been identified as ‘essential.’ These personnel are currently working, but will receive no paycheck until the government shutdown has ended. While they will eventually get paid, many do not have enough savings to make it long without a paycheck.
Ms. Zimmerman, the 8th grade Civics teacher, has a son in the Coast Guard who falls under this select category. She said, “we asked him how long he could hold out on his savings and he said he could make the mid-month payments and the February 1st payment, but after that he would be having to borrow. My son has made good decisions with his money, but he also has us as a backup. The fact is we wouldn’t let him not pay his rent, but some families don’t have that ability.”
While essential Coast Guard personnel are being told to work without pay, those who have been sorted into the nonessential category — about 46,000 Coast Guard men and women — have been furloughed. Ms. Zimmerman explained, “they are not working, so they are not going to get retroactive pay. This period is considered an unemployment period for them, which is tougher. At least we know that my son is going to get the money.”
What Trump may not understand is that over 75% of American full-time workers live paycheck to paycheck, including government workers and military personnel. This month, when thousands of government workers will not receive their paychecks, they will be asked to dip into savings that they simply do not have. In an attempt to help Coast Guard members get by this month without pay, the Navy Federal Credit Union has offered an interest-free $1000 loan to Coast Guard members, and the Coast Guard Support Program has published a tip sheet titled “Managing your Finances during a Furlough.” Among the suggestions are having a garage sale, dog walking, and food delivery.
The Coast Guard handles emergency situations on the sea. This includes everything from search-and-rescue to drug seizure. Trump has cited drug flow across the U.S. Mexico border as an imminent issue that will be solved by his wall, but the majority of the drug flow into our country passes through legal ports of entry. In fact, only a small percentage passes through the area that would be blocked by an extended border wall. The Coast Guard plays a vital role in keeping drugs from reaching our borders by apprehending smugglers before they ever reach our coast line. In fact, the Coast Guard has seized more drugs than any other government agency. And yet, thousands of Coast Guard personnel are being told to work without pay, serving as pawns in Trump’s battle over a border wall that will be largely ineffective.
On December 11 2018, during a meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, President Trump stated that he is “proud to shutdown the government for border security.” Unfortunately, President Trump’s government shutdown has only hurt the men and women of the Coast Guard who do more for our country’s border security than any other government organization.
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