Dozens of Coast Guard employees came to work the day after Christmas only to find that they’d been furloughed until the partial federal government shutdown is over. Even the ones who are working might not be getting paid anytime soon.
Fifty-three civilian employees in Juneau were furloughed, Coast Guard Public Affairs Officer Lt. Brian Dykens said in an interview Wednesday. That’s almost all of the civilian Coast Guard employees in Juneau, as Dykens said there are 59 civilian positions between Sector Juneau, the 17th District and Civil Engineering Unit (CEU) Juneau.
He said these furloughed employees come from “a vast array of departments and jobs,” including information technology, engineering, maintenance and others. The remaining six civilian employees are working, but Dykens said employees will miss their next paycheck if a solution isn’t reached by this Friday. The next payday for Coast Guard employees is Dec. 31.
The Coast Guard’s essential services — such as search and rescue and environmental response — are still funded, Dykens said. Higher-ranking Coast Guard officials were unavailable Wednesday to provide specifics about where that funding comes from. The bottom line, Dykens said, is that the Coast Guard will continue to be there if someone’s in danger.
“We don’t know how long the government shutdown will last,” Dykens said in a statement, “but we have a plan to maintain the essential safety, security, and environmental protection services the public expects from the Coast Guard. We will continue to monitor the situation and, if necessary, adjust our operations to ensure national security and to protect life and property.”
The shutdown stems from an impasse between President Donald Trump and members of Congress about the nation’s budget. At the center of negotiations is the funding of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The partial shutdown has about 38,000 federal employees on furlough and 420,000 employees working without pay, ABC News reported this week.
Rear Admiral Matthew T. Bell, Jr., the commander of the 17th District, said it’s never a good time to lose funding, but it’s even more pronounced around the holiday season.
“I’m personally concerned for some of our more junior members and their families making ends meet during the lapse,” Bell said in a statement. “We’re ever watchful to ensure we have the necessary resources in place to help them if the need arises.”
There are a few options for Coast Guard employees who are struggling financially. The Coast Guard Mutual Assistance program has money set aside to help employees and their families with money. Dykens said there are also opportunities with banks and other organizations to help Coast Guard employees if need be.
NBC News reported Wednesday that 42,000 active-duty Coast Guard members remain on duty, and that the Coast Guard is the only branch of the military whose employees will go without pay during the shutdown if there isn’t a solution by Friday. Dykens said it depends on what the details end up being when negotiators in Washington, D.C. finally come to an agreement, but he and his co-workers hope they will be given back pay for the work they’re doing now.
For now, he said, they’re remaining at their posts despite many of them expecting not to be paid next Monday.
“The public expects us to save lives and protect the environment,” Dykens said.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.