The federal government shutdown is causing increased frustration among service members as they mark the first time since the founding of the United States that they won’t be seeing a paycheck.
Veterans around the country have already been feeling a financial pinch as they make up at least a third of the federal workforce. All of them have been put on furlough pending a budget agreement in congress.
A lack of TSA agents means long lines at most domestic airports. A lack of USDA and FDA inspectors means food, food production facilities, and slaughterhouses are not being kept to standards. No reports from the Commerce Department or the Department of Agriculture means retailers and farmers have to rely on divination for the 2019 outlook.
The argument is this: Congress must approve $5.7 billion to fund a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico or President Donald Trump will not reinstate the federal government.
While politicians argue in D.C., American service members are going without a paycheck, and at least one of their superiors is offering them a few words of empathy.
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Adm. Karl Schultz, top commander of the U.S. Coast Guard, addressed service members on Tuesday, in a letter.
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 service members 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
Whether Schultz’ words will alleviate the frustration of missing a paycheck may be irrelevant if the shutdown lasts much longer. Formerly employed U.S. citizens, many of them serving in the Armed Forces, are being forced to cut back, missing out on things they enjoy, and living in fear of the future.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.