A Coast Guard member at the helm of a vessel. (FOX News file)
NEW YORK (FOX 5 NY) - Sector New York, based on Staten Island, is the U.S. Coast Guard's busiest operational field command in the United States. About a thousand employees watch over New York Harbor. Many of them say they are gearing up for what could be a very big struggle in the coming weeks as their bills pile up while their paychecks are on hold.
Nearly 42,000 active duty Coast Guard members are considered essential personnel nationwide. That means they must work without pay during the partial government shutdown. This is the first time this has happened with the Coast Guard due to any type of government shutdown.
Rebeca Hinger has 3-year-old twins and a 1-year-old with her husband, Robert, who served with the Coast Guard for the last nine years. She said they've had to get serious about how to handle not getting a paycheck.
"Budgeting was a huge thing for us. We have meal-planned. We had made sure that we have enough money for bills, specifically, and necessities for our children," Hinger said. "Diapers, wipes, formula, milk. Just the basics and needs, so, we are a family that lives paycheck to paycheck."
Earlier this week, the Coast Guard support program published a five-page "tip sheet" with recommendations on how to come up with extra income. Some have said they felt offended by suggestions like having a garage sale, babysitting, walking pets, tutoring students, or giving music lessons and more.
The tip sheet was quickly taken down. Coast Guard officials said it did not reflect the current efforts to support their workforce.
Groups and communities are coming together at bases to help. These groups said they need help to assist those affected.
"The simplest message is, they're not alone," Charles Blaich, the president of the New York Navy League, said. "There is a whole community here. We expect a large outpouring of assistance."
The Coast Guard sent letters to its members to pass along to banks and creditors to ask for leniency during this difficult time but many families say it may not be enough to keep them afloat.
Message from Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Commandant of the Coast Guard
To the Men and Women of the United States Coast Guard,
Today you will not be receiving your regularly scheduled mid-month paycheck. To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time in our Nation's history that servicemembers in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriations.
Your senior leadership, including Secretary Nielsen, remains fully engaged and we will maintain a steady flow of communications to keep you updated on developments.
I recognize the anxiety and uncertainty this situation places on you and your family, and we are working closely with service organizations on your behalf. To this end, I am encouraged to share that Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA) has received a $15 million donation from USAA to support our people in need. In partnership with CGMA, the American Red Cross will assist in the distribution of these funds to our military and civilian workforce requiring assistance.
I am grateful for the outpouring of support across the country, particularly in local communities, for our men and women. It is a direct reflection of the American public's sentiment towards their United States Coast Guard; they recognize the sacrifice that you and your family make in service to your country.
It is also not lost on me that our dedicated civilians are already adjusting to a missed paycheck—we are confronting this challenge together.
The strength of our Service has, and always will be, our people. You have proven time and again the ability to rise above adversity. Stay the course, stand the watch, and serve with pride. You are not, and will not, be forgotten.
Admiral Karl L. Schultz Commandant