One of the first questions asked during a government shutdown is about military pay. Will members of the military get paid? Will they still have to go to work? Lawmakers use military pay as a huge bargaining chip in getting an appropriations bill passed that maintains their interests. Often, a continuing resolution is passed to at least fund the military during a prolonged shutdown.
With the government partially shutdown since late December, is the military getting paid? Yes and no.
The branches of the military that fall under the Department of Defense—the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps—are all funded through previous appropriations and will continue to receive pay like normal. Civilians working within these military branches will also be paid and work will go on.
The Coast Guard, however, falls under the Department of Homeland Security. The appropriations bill that Congress needs to pass funds the Coast Guard. So, until an appropriations bill or continuing resolution is passed, members of the Coast Guard and civilian Coast Guard employees can expect delayed paychecks.
Who is Still Working?
The official guidance is that military members of the Coast Guard not on leave should “report to work as normal.” Unfortunately, that same guidance warns them that “if a lapse extends to within a few days of the end of a pay period, scheduled paychecks may be delayed.” The partial government shutdown has now extended over 2 pay periods and Coast Guard members and their families are feeling the strain.
Civilian employees officially designated as exempt will continue to work as normal, according to the Coast Guard’s published guidance. This could be due to their funding coming from a source other than the annual appropriations, which are not funded during the shutdown, or because their mission is authorized by law.
Many administrative tasks remain uncompleted, as those responsible wait to return to work. The official Coast Guard website has not been updated since December 21, 2018, making information hard to track down.
This account will not be actively managed during the lapse in
federal funding. We will not be able to respond or update until after funding is enacted.
— U.S. Coast Guard (@USCG) December 22, 2018
Essential functions of the Coast Guard include “operations authorized by law that provide for national security, or that protect life and property.”
Meeting Financial Obligations
As in previous shutdowns, leadership is doing all that they can to make sure that working without pay does not negatively impact service members’ financial health. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Matthew W. Sibley, Acting Assistant Commandant for Human Resources, issued a signed letter for Coast Guard members to provide to creditors outlining the details of the shutdown. In the letter, he tells creditors that he “appreciates your organization’s understanding and flexibility in working with Coast Guard members who request forbearance on their obligations until this situation is resolved.”
Department of Homeland Security Chief Human Capital Officer Angela Bailey provided a similar letter for DHS employees.
The Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA) fund has also shifted to respond to the needs of those impacted most by the shutdown. Regular assistance program funds are now earmarked for junior enlisted and civilian employees in financial need due to the shutdown. All enlisted members who are at the rank of E-5 and below, as well as civilian employees GS-6 and below on the payscale, are able to apply for loans of $350 if single and $550 if married.
Some financial institutions are also providing assistance to their members. Navy Federal Credit Union, which serves many members of the military including the Coast Guard, is offering o% APR loans for those going without pay. Eligible members can apply and be loaned the amount that they would have been paid. When pay does come, that same amount will go back to Navy Federal. Popular bank USAA has done something similar in the past, but is notably not providing the offer to impacted Coast Guard members during this shutdown.
GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN ASSISTANCE: Navy Federal is committed to helping our members. We are offering all eligible members a 0% APR loan to help cover their pay.
Find out if you're eligible and sign up here: https://t.co/ypqXLb5esn pic.twitter.com/OuIlTNf6rA
— Navy Federal (@NavyFederal) December 22, 2018
Pushing Lawmakers to Action
Officials in Washington are working to pass an appropriations bill, but the government continues to be shutdown as Democrats and Republicans cannot come to an agreement.
President Trump tasked his team in the White House with finding a way to meet the December 31 pay obligations for the Coast Guard and other employees. According to the official Coast Guard blog, All Hands, the military members of the Coast Guard were paid on December 31 with previously allocated funds. “This one-time action applies to military members that served on active duty in the month of December and those reserve military members that drilled prior to the lapse in appropriation.”
The solution does not, however, guarantee pay on the next pay cycle ending on January 14. “Meeting active duty and reserve military payroll for January 2019 will require a fiscal year 2019 appropriation, a continuing resolution, or passage of an alternative measure,” said All Hands.
Representative Susan Wild of Pennsylvania introduced legislation that would fund the Coast Guard. A newly elected congresswoman, Wild has been outspoken about the responsibility the government has to pay those who do the important work of protecting our country.
Thrilled to announce I introduced my first bill today! It would fund the Coast Guard during the shutdown to ensure our men and women in uniform are getting paid. To truly keep our borders secure, we should pay the people responsible for securing them.https://t.co/gixgvhl6m3
— Rep. Susan Wild (@RepSusanWild) January 2, 2019
The irony of not funding the Department of Homeland Security while debating funding of a border wall aimed at keeping our borders secure cannot be lost on those involved. Whether with pay or without, the men and women of the United States Coast Guard continue to do the important work that keeps us safe. From responding to mariners in distress to conducting search and rescue operations, the Coast Guard remains always ready—even without pay.