Coast Guard members who are living paycheck to paycheck may have to take out loans if the government shutdown drags on.
The Coast Guard is the only branch of the military directly affected by the partial shutdown that began Saturday because it’s funded through the Department of Homeland Security. The other branches receive their money through Department of Defense appropriations, which were signed into law in September.
With the DHS funding lapsed, roughly 44,000 active-duty Coast Guard members will be working without paychecks until Congress and the White House reach a deal to reopen the government and provide back pay.
Another 6,000 Coast Guard employees are being furloughed, according to DHS guidance. That means they won’t be working and any pay for the shutdown period would have to come retroactively, through an act of Congress.
A Coast Guard spokesman said active-duty members are usually paid on the first and 15th of each month. If the shutdown persists through Friday, they would not receive their scheduled Jan. 1 paychecks.
Trump said he is prepared to carry out a “very long” shutdown to secure $5 billion in funding for a wall on the U.S. southern border that he had insisted Mexico was supposed to pay for. Although Republicans still control both the House and Senate, they don’t have enough votes for a deal on wall funding without Democrats.
Trump will have an even harder time rounding up votes for his wall when the new Congress takes office next week, with Democrats taking over as the House majority on Jan. 3.
An estimated 420,000 federal employees are working without pay, and roughly 380,000 have been furloughed as a quarter of the government remains closed. After previous shutdowns, Congress has passed laws to pay furloughed workers for the time they missed, and it’s likely lawmakers would do the same after this one.
As HuffPost previously detailed, government shutdowns are quite expensive, forcing agencies to develop contingency plans and throwing hundreds of thousands of government employees off their normal work. The work stoppages also can damage consumer confidence in the overall economy and take a bite out of the nation’s gross domestic product.
Many workers who are guaranteed backpay when the government reopens still must worry about how they’ll cover their bills in the meantime. A woman describing herself as the wife of an active-duty Coast Guard member said on Twitter that she fears not being able to cover the family’s rent. She was one of many using the #ShutdownStories hashtag:
My husband is active duty Coast Guard. Everyone thinks the military is getting paid during the shutdown, but the Coast Guard is facing no pay on the 1st due to being DHS and not DoD. We live in NYC, pay over $2K/month in rent, have a toddler and one on the way.#ShutdownStories
— Katy⚓ (@katyjb88) December 24, 2018
Trump wished Coast Guard members and others in the military a happy holiday during a call in front of reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday. “It’s a disgrace what’s happening in our country, but other than that, I wish everybody a very Merry Christmas,” the president said.
The Navy Federal Credit Union said it would be offering interest-free loans to eligible members who don’t receive their paychecks on the first of the month. A Navy Federal spokesman said Coast Guard members who have direct deposit through the credit union can register for the loans up to three days after their normal payday.
Workers who pay the biggest price in a shutdown tend to be those who are not federal employees but work under federal contracts, such as janitors and those employed by concessions that operate at federal buildings. These workers generally have no way of recouping back pay for time they missed while the government was closed.