POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Coast Guard members working without pay during shutdown

“Always ready,” the Coast Guard slogan, means still ready during the partial government shutdown for the U.S. Coast Guard in Atlantic City. The Coast Guard is the only uniformed service where its members are not getting paid but are still on the job. Military personnel, on the other hand, who fall under the Pentagon, are being paid.

“Our search and rescue missions during this time period, during the winter, could be a mix from anything from conducting a medevac, to assisting a boat that could be taking on water offshore,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Seth Johnson, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson. “During the shutdown we are still performing our duties, like search and rescue, port and homeland security missions, law enforcement and environmental response.”

It’s Day Seven of the budget impasse. In New Jersey, about 6,700 federal workers are either furloughed or working without pay. That includes some civilians who work for the Coast Guard and are considered essential.

“Some of the civilian positions, due to their function, are not furloughed in order to maintain operations,” said Johnson, “such as search and rescue coordinators, vessel traffic service watchstanders, or hazardous materials specialists can be excepted.”

At the earliest, Coast Guard members won’t see a paycheck until the middle of January — if there’s a budget resolution.

The American Federation of Government Employees, the union which represents about 700,000 federal workers issued a statement saying, “Federal employees want to go to work … But now, 420 thousand will report to work … and won’t get paid for it. More than 380 thousand employees will be locked out.”

The stumbling block remains the border wall. President Donald Trump says he won’t sign a budget without $5 billion for the wall on the southern border. He ramped up the rhetoric on Friday, tweeting: “Have the Democrats finally realized that we desperately need Border Security and a Wall on the Southern Border. Need to stop Drugs, Human Trafficking, Gang Members & Criminals from coming into our Country. Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?”

The president provided no evidence as to that last claim. He also threatened to close the entire southern border, including trade, if wall funding is not secured.

The federal office of personnel management is advising furloughed workers to contact landlords and banks about any hardship.

Some financial institutions are providing help. Several banks are asking customers who are federal workers to contact them if they are facing financial problems.

About 25 percent of the federal government is unfunded. The Cabinet agencies that are impacted are the Departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice.

The new Congress is sworn in next week, and we’ll see if the state’s newest members have any fresh ideas on how to get everyone back to work.