Veterans, Private Donors Aid Coast Guard Crews Awaiting Suspended Paychecks

Assistance Options Both Local and National
Jan 23, 2019
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Locals certainly appreciate the U.S. Coast Guard. As stories elsewhere in this issue show, Beach Haven borough and the Long Beach Island Foundation for the Arts and Sciences are helping the crew members of Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light and their families as they try to survive not getting paid during the partial government shutdown. Even corporations have gotten into the act, as reported by the SandPaper story that shows that Hackensack Meridian Health is waiving co-pays and deductibles for emergency visits to its urgent care centers and all of its network hospitals, including Manahawkin’s Southern Ocean Medical Center. The offer is not only for members of the Coast Guard and their immediate families, but also for all furloughed federal workers and their insured family members.

Members of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines are getting paid. So why not members of the Coast Guard? The first four services are part of the Department of Defense, which was fully funded before the partial government shutdown. The Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which has not been funded.

Other businesses, organizations and individuals are also lending helping hands. Greenhouse Café in Ship Bottom is offering a free or discounted meal to Station Barnegat Light crew members – free if the meal is $20 or less; discounted by $20 if the check runs higher than $20.

The $20 amount wasn’t picked out of the air by folks at the Greenhouse Café. Members of the Coast Guard – and many other federal agencies – are not allowed to accept gifts worth more than $20. That’s why municipalities such as Beach Haven, organizations such as the St. Francis Center and the LBI Foundation, and individuals who are collecting items for Coasties and their families stress that gift cards should have a $20 limit.

Retired Coasties are also helping active-duty members. Rob Schrader, a retired chief petty officer who served at Station Barnegat Light from 1982 to 1988 and who now calls Barnegat Township home, is asking all hands to get on board with the effort.

“The end is nowhere in sight,” said Schrader of the current federal shutdown. “Not having a paycheck is worrisome to Coast Guard families in Barnegat Light who are stuck without their paychecks. Many of the families live here in Barnegat and will settle in Barnegat, like us and many of my friends.

“These Coast Guard members are on duty 7/24/365. The Coast Guard is always there. ... Let’s be there for them!

“If you live locally, these families are in need of non-perishable food (pasta, canned goods, cereal for their kids, crackers, kids’ snacks, and baby formula and diapers), personal hygiene supplies, and dog and cat supplies. Please – no homemade gifts at this time.”

Donations from the mainland can be dropped off between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily at Schrader’s home (11 Harpoon Drive) for transport to Station Barnegat Light. Contact him on Facebook with name and phone number.

“If you live away and want to help out the Station Barnegat Light crew, you can send a gift card with a thank-you card in denominations of $20 from Walmart, or national chain restaurants such as Applebee’s, Friday’s or Olive Garden.”

Gift cards can be mailed to USCG Station Barnegat Light, Executive Petty Officer Robert Shay, 601 Bayview Ave., Barnegat Light, N.J. 08006.

“Remember,” said Schrader, “these shipmates are not asking for anything. Your donation is to show your support and your thank-you. If you have any other ideas, let me know via messenger or call me at 856-505-9661.”

If an agreement to reopen the government is not reached soon by Republicans and Democrats in Washington, even retired Coasties will get hit in the wallet. Some 50,000 Coast Guard annuitants may not receive their pension check on the first of February.

Schrader is lucky – he also receives a pension from the state of New Jersey. But he knows many Coast Guard retirees who would be badly hurt if reports of a possible pension cutoff on Feb. 1 prove accurate.

Another former Coast Guardsman, Lacey resident Pete Donahue, has also been helping out current members of our nation’s smallest armed force. He collected $1,500 in donations for ShopRite gift cards from residents of Forked River, Lanoka Harbor, Bamber Lake, Bayville, Manahawkin and Waretown. He also spent a weekend shoveling snow, with contributions going to the crew of Station Barnegat Light. He also created a GoFundMe site, “Feed the Coast Guard,” which in eight days has raised $1,125 of its $10,000 goal.

If the federal government reopens before Donahue’s GoFundMe campaign ends, he will transfer donations to the U.S. Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Fund or the U.S. Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Officers Association.

Although it is not Station Barnegat Light specific, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance is perhaps the best way to help. It has been supporting men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard since 1924 and is stepping up efforts during the funding lapse. See cgmahq.org to donate. Corporations should email donations@cgmahq.org or call Erica Chapman at 703-581-5297.

All Coast Guard military and civilian personnel are eligible to receive a CGMA interest-free loan up to $1,500 for a member with dependents, and up to $1,000 for an individual.

The American Legion is also stepping up to help. The legion’s Temporary Financial Assistance program normally issues one-time grants up to $1,500 to eligible active-duty military and American Legion members who have minor children in the home. The legion says it has received more than 1,000 requests for aid since Jan. 15, when Coasties didn’t get paid for the first time.

“We are responding as quickly as possible to the outpouring of requests,” said American Legion National Commander Brett P. Reistad. “The brave members of our Coast Guard risk their lives defending us daily, just like branches of service in the Department of Defense. They should not have to worry about bills and living expenses just because Congress and the White House cannot agree on a budget.”

With so many requests, the American Legion, or Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, could use more donations. See legion.org for information for donors and requests for assistance.

Several banks and credit unions have announced low- or no-interest loans for Coasties and other furloughed or suspended-pay federal employees who already had accounts. Coasties should call their financial institutions.

A bill that would have the Coast Guard get paid was the very first legislation introduced by newly elected Rep. Jeff Van Drew  of the 2nd District. That makes sense, considering his district includes the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May – the service’s only “boot camp” – as well as Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City and Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light. Van Drew, a Democrat, represents most of Southern Ocean County.

Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan, chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Security, is pressing legislation that would immediately pay the Coast Guard. That makes sense, considering Sullivan represents Alaska in the Senate. Alaska relies on the Coast Guard perhaps more than any other state. Helicopters from USCG Air Station Kodiak not only pluck fishermen out of the freezing ocean, but also provide medical air evacuation for much of the huge state. Plus, the Coast Guard is responsible for at least 20 percent of the income on Kodiak Island, making it a cog in the island’s economy, just as Training Station Cape May is for that New Jersey community during the winter.

Sullivan met with President Donald Trump last Friday and said afterward that the president is supportive of a Senate bill that would restore Coast Guard funding levels until a comprehensive appropriations bill is passed.

— Rick Mellerup

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

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