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42,000 Coast Guard members are the only military branch to work without pay during shutdown

"For us to just be cast aside, this is hurtful. We put so much on the line every day," said Emily Garris, wife of a Coast Guard member and mother of two.
Image: A U.S. Coast Guard boat passes Liberty Island in New York Harbor on Aug. 27, 2018.
A U.S. Coast Guard boat passes Liberty Island in New York Harbor on Aug. 27, 2018.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

The Coast Guard is the only branch of the military whose members will go without pay during the government shutdown unless Congress and President Donald Trump can find a resolution by Friday.

Approximately 42,000 active-duty military members of the Coast Guard remain on duty during the partial government shutdown that began Saturday, but they will work without pay until further notice, according to a statement from a Coast Guard spokeswoman.

"Unless legislation is passed by Friday, Dec. 28, our military workforce will not receive our regularly scheduled pay check for 31 Dec.," Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy said in a statement to NBC News on Wednesday.

The Coast Guard is the only part of the military under the Department of Homeland Security, rather than the Department of Defense which continues to be funded during the shutdown.

As for the thousands of people in the Coast Guard's civilian workforce, most have been furloughed without pay until further notice, with a small fraction still working as essential personnel.

Government employees have received back pay at the end of past shutdowns.

Emily Garris, 42, the wife of a Coast Guard member stationed in California and mother of two, told NBC News the current shutdown has left many families feeling "cast aside."

In previous government shutdowns when the other military branches were also affected, Garris said her husband was paid as a result of emergency funding passed by Congress.

This is the first time in her husband's 25 years of service he has come so close to not receiving a paycheck, she said in a phone interview Wednesday.

"People who serve in the Coast Guard don’t do it for the riches. They do it because they love our country; they want to serve the country they love," Garris said. "And for us to just be cast aside, this is hurtful. We put so much on the line every day."

Garris said her family will be fine for the short term, but that she knows many families were depending on getting their regular paychecks after the holidays and are now feeling financially stressed.

Some other Coast Guard family members took to social media to share stories of how the shutdown is affecting them.

"My husband is active duty Coast Guard. Everyone thinks the military is getting paid during the shutdown, but the Coast Guard is facing no pay on the 1st due to being DHS and not DoD," one person wrote on Twitter on Christmas Eve in a post that was retweeted more than 11,000 times.

"We live in NYC, pay over $2K/month in rent, have a toddler and one on the way," wrote the user, who declined to be interviewed by NBC News.

Coast Guard forces are continuing to provide essential operations "that provide for national security or that protect life and property during partial government shutdowns," such as search-and-rescue, securing the nation's ports and coastlines, other law enforcement duties and environmental response, according to Conroy.

But, she said the Coast Guard "stops or curtails mission activities that do not fall into those categories," including training and maintenance activities to its fleets.

With the government shutdown, "they will likely not have the full support that they need in order to maintain mission readiness," Conroy said.

To aid the force's military members and their families, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, the nonprofit, official relief society of this branch, said on its website that it would post guidelines for assistance during the shutdown, but that its "resources are not without limit."

The organization suggested that members reach out to credit unions and banks if necessary for assistance.

"Working proactively with your creditors and landlords can often help keep the ship afloat while the emergency situation recedes," the organization said on its site.

Navy Federal Credit Union, which provides service to all branches of the military, has announced a relief program that features a zero-interest loan to affected members.

“Our members deserve peace of mind during a government shutdown, and eligible members can register to get some relief,” Tynika Wilson, the credit union's senior vice president of debit card and fund services, said in a press release. “Public service is a defining characteristic of our membership, and this is the right thing to do.”

Trump told Congress last week he would refuse to sign a stopgap measure to fund the government unless it included $5 billion for a border wall, which Senate Democrats have refused to approve.

Unless an agreement on border-wall funding can be reached, Trump has warned the shutdown could last a "very long time."