With the partial government shutdown showing no signs of ending soon, thousands of United States Coast Guard members are preparing to begin 2019 without a paycheck. It is the only military branch facing the issue, and it has volunteers on Cape Cod busy trying to soften the blow.
Approximately 42,000 active-duty Coast Guard members across the country will work without pay during the partial shutdown that began Saturday. Barring a last-minute legislative solution, they will not be paid as planned on Jan. 15. New Year’s Eve will be the last guaranteed paycheck for members. That paycheck will include all of normal pay and allowance benefits.
Volunteers with the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation are trying to do something about that. Their Empowerment Center at Joint Base Cape Cod offers a year-round place where service members can get food and other essentials for free. They usually see 100 families a week. They are anticipating five times that during the shutdown.
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“Their first responsibility is to take care of their families, but when you don’t have a paycheck and you’re expected to work, that doesn’t seem fair to me,” president of the foundation, Don Cox said.
Cox said this will be his fourth government shutdown helping military families and he knows how to prepare. On Friday, he and other volunteers were unloading donations from all over the region. They brought in refrigerators from as far away as Connecticut and turned their community room into a makeshift supermarket in order to accommodate the anticipated crowds.
“It’s insane because everybody overextends themselves at Christmas to give their families a great Christmas and for this to hit at this time of year, it’s just devastating,” Cox said.
Coast Guard members cannot speak openly about their concerns, but officials said search-and-rescue and other essential duties will continue.
“However, with a government shutdown, they will likely not have the full support that they need in order to maintain mission readiness,” Andrew Barresi of the U.S. Coast Guard in Boston said in a statement.
As it continues, Cox is busy collecting donations and working in partnership with other organizations across the state. They have plans to open up a second food distribution site in Boston soon and said they are preparing for the shutdown to last weeks.
“It’s just going to compound itself,” he said. “What we’re solving now is the food problem. Thirty days from now we’re going to have to solve the bill problem and the utility problem because these things aren’t going away.”
Those interested in helping can visit the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation website.