Congress poised to pass Coast Guard payment bill as shutdown drags on January 19, 2019
By Christopher Harress | www.al.com
Members of the United States Coast Guard who did not receive a paycheck Tuesday because of the government shutdown could be paid February 1st if a bill in Congress can make it to President Donald Trump’s desk for approval.
Alabama U.S. House Representative Bradley Byrne told constituents at a Town Hall meeting in Mobile Friday morning a number of bills that aim to pay the Coast Guard have been submitted for consideration in the House and the Senate, including his own Always Ready Act.
“My bill was introduced last week, but Senator Thune has a similar bill and I think the plan now is to go ahead and move very quickly to get Senator Thune’s bill through Senate next week, then it’ll come to House,” Byrne told AL.com. “The White House, I’m told, said that they will sign it which means I think it’ll move through the House very quickly.”
In an email from Rep. Byrne’s office, it was confirmed that Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl Schultz said he expected the President to sign the bill should it make it through the House. It’s expected to pass through the Senate by unanimous consent, noted the email.
The Coast Guard, which consists of 90,000 personnel has not been paid since Dec. 31 after a dispute over funding for a wall on the southern border shut down the government. Civilian employees in the Coast Guard have not been paid since Dec. 17.
The Coast Guard is the only branch of the military still expected to work without being paid. The other four branches of the Armed Services are paid through the Department of Defense, which is already funded for the this year. The Coast Guard is paid by Department of Homeland Security, which is part of the broader budget dispute.
Failure to pay the 800,000 federal employees over the last 28 days of the shutdown has resulted in large community efforts around the country. In lower Alabama, food pantries are giving Coast Guard and federally-hired civilians groceries and other items to help them survive until the next paycheck comes in.
"If there’s not another pay check come February 1st we have been told to anticipate an additional 400 Coast Guard families in desperate need,” said Deann Servos, executive director and founder of the Prodisee Pantry in Baldwin County. “And we currently see about 1200 families a month. That will make our numbers close to 1600 and take a chunk out of our three-month stockpiles.”