A surprise maneuver at the end of December 2018 ensured Coast Guardsmen got their final paychecks of 2018, despite the government shutdown that began on Dec. 22, 2018.
But the shutdown has dragged on, and the income for some 50,000 personnel, including 42,000 deemed essential personnel and required to work during the shutdown, remains in doubt as the first payday of 2019 approaches.
Salaries for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps are covered by the Defense Department, which got its full funding the for the fiscal year in the fall of 2018. But while the Coast Guard is a military branch, it is part of the Department of Homeland Security, funding for which had not been approved by the time the shutdown began.
Coast Guard operations have continued, however.
Coast Guard personnel prepare a sling that will hoist a 12,000-pound beached buoy, near Chatham, Massachusetts, May 9, 2017.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi)
On Dec. 23, 2018, Coast Guard crews on training exercises in Hawaii were diverted twice, first to medevac a snorkeler who was having a medical emergency and then to rescue passengers from a capsized vessel. In January 2019, Coast Guard crews in the Pacific have been involved in searches for crew members from two different vessels.
Officials said on Dec. 28, 2018, that the Homeland Security Department had found a way to supply about million needed to cover pay for the Dec. 31, 2018 pay period, but they said they would be unable to repeat it for the Jan. 15, 2019 payday.
There is some money within the Homeland Security Department that has moved around to keep things going, but some activities, like issuing licenses, has been curtailed. Funding for other services, like child-care subsidies, is also running out, further complicating life for service members and their families.
During the first week of January 2019, the Pay Our Coast Guard Act was introduced to the Senate by Republican Sen. John Thune, cosponsored by Republican Sens. Roger Wicker, Susan Collins, Cindy Hyde Smith, and Democratic Sens. Marla Cantwell, Richard Blumenthal, Doug Jones, and Brian Schatz.
A family poses with Jane Coastie at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City, May 29, 2017.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes)
The bill would pay active, retired, and civilian Coast Guard personnel despite the shutdown. It would also fund benefits for retired members, death gratuities, and other payouts.
Thune’s measure was first introduced in 2015 but died after being referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. After a grassroots effort generated 141,015 letters to congress members asking for its reintroduced, the bill was resubmitted on Jan. 3, 2019, the first day of the 116th Congress.
“All we know so far, is that if this isn’t resolved by the 10th they will not get paid on the 15th,” Coast Guard spouse Stephanie Lisle told ConnectingVets.com. “Hopefully the bill gets passed.”
The bill garnered support from more than a dozen veterans groups, but it would also have to pass the House of Representatives, which is now controlled by Democrats, and be signed by President Donald Trump.
Early January 2019 Trump said he was prepared to keep the government shut down for “months or even years” after he and Democratic leaders again failed to resolve his demand for billions in funding for a border wall.
“We won’t be opening until it’s solved,” Trump said on Jan. 4, 2019. “I don’t call it a shutdown. I call it doing what you have to do for the benefit and the safety of our country.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.