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Government shutdown: Coast Guard family starts GoFundMe to pay members

Crew members from the Coast Guard Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team offloads approximately 5,100 pounds of suspected cocaine from The Royal Canadian Navy HMCS Edmonton at Naval Base San Diego Dec. 7th, 2018. The contraband was seized by Coast Guard and Canadian Navy crews working together during counterdrug operations in the Eastern Pacific. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Fireman Taylor Bacon/released)

The family of a U.S. Coast Guard member has started a GoFundMe to raise money for the thousands of members who are working without pay due to the record-long government shutdown, which in its 26th day shows no signs of ending.

The campaign, which was started by former Coast Guard member Amanda Fortier Morales, 30, is giving all donated funds to the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, a non-profit run by current and former Coast Guard members to provide assistance in times of need, including interest-free loans and financial counseling.

Fortier Morales’ husband is still active duty in the Guard and is the sole breadwinner for their South Carolina family, which includes a 5-month-old baby girl. She said he brought home nothing this week, along with the more than 40,000 other active duty members, thanks to the partisan bickering in Washington over a wall along the southern border.

“We’re missing our family’s income and with a 5-month-old daughter, and me being a fulltime grad student, yeah, that puts stress on us,” she said, adding if the impasse and shutdown continue her family might have to take out a loan or seek help from family.

Fortier Morales said she started the fund as the shutdown was beginning after seeing millions in donations pour in to construct a border wall.

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“I saw someone joked ‘if they will pay for a border wall, will they pay our paychecks?'” she said. “It was funny but serious at the same time because a lot of people didn’t know our pay was being threatened as part of all of this.”

While members of other branches of the military haven’t seen a pay disruption, the Coast Guard isn’t being funded because it’s part of the Department of Homeland Security instead of the Department of Defense.

The missed paychecks on Tuesday marked the first known instance that U.S. Armed Forces service members were not paid during a lapse in government funding, according to Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz.

Schultz, in a letter to Coast Guard members about their paychecks, said that the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance had been receiving donations to help members, including a $15 million donation from USAA. The money would help in providing interest-free loans.

The Coast Guard was under fire last week after a tip sheet was discovered by the Washington Post that directed employees to hold garage sales and babysit to survive being furloughed throughout the shutdown.

The sheet was later removed and the Coast Guard said it did “not reflect” efforts to support its workforce.

Fortier Morales said she hopes the fund will bring more attention to the Coast Guard, all the good they do in communities across the nation and to the fact that they’re continuing to work without pay. She wasn’t worried about who was to blame for the shutdown despite both Democrats and President Donald Trump aiming to target one another.

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“I think for most of us, it’s really hard to think about blame,” she said. “We’re all thinking more about how to put food on the table.”

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© 2019 USA Today

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.