Unpaid federal workers warn Southwest Florida of approaching storm

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During stormy weather like that in SWFL today, unpaid US Coast Guard personnel still perform rescue operations like this one on Jan. 20 off Bimini, Bahamas. In this case 31 people were successfully saved from a foundering vessel.    (Photo: USCG)

Today is the 34th day of Trump’s government shutdown

Jan. 24, 2019, by David Silverberg

Updated 1:51 pm

As stormy weather closed in on Southwest Florida, warnings were issued to residents and boaters by the National Weather Service (NWS)—whose employees are going unpaid during President Donald Trump’s government shutdown.

At 9:49 am this morning NWS warned of hazardous marine conditions, severe storms and rip currents along the Southwest Florida coast. Tornadoes were possible on the east coast.

NWS, part of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, is in the US Commerce Department, an unfunded agency headed by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

Asked today about government workers having to rely on groceries from food banks and other charities, Ross told CNBC: “”I know they are and I don’t really quite understand why because as I mentioned before, the obligations that they would undertake – say borrowing from a bank or credit union – are in effect federally guaranteed. So the 30 days of pay that people will be out – there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it and we’ve seen a number of ads from the financial institutions doing that.”

The US Coast Guard, responsible for maritime safety and rescue in such circumstances, is also shut down and its employees unpaid but is still performing lifesaving and rescue operations. It is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Liberty lives in light


Shutdown fallout: Naples Coast Guard Auxiliary cuts activities


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The US Coast Guard Auxiliary facility at the Cocohatchee River Marina in North Naples, Fla., seen from the water.   (Photo: USCG Auxiliary) 

Today is the 28th day of the Trump government shutdown.

Jan. 18, 2019, by David Silverberg

The Trump government shutdown has hit Southwest Florida’s US Coast Guard Auxiliary, Flotilla 96, based on the Cocohatchee River and Wiggins Pass in North Naples.

The Auxiliary is a volunteer arm of the Coast Guard that assists it in meeting its many missions. Typical Auxiliary activities include boating safety training, patrolling, classroom instruction, community outreach and search and rescue. Nationally, it has 26,000 members who serve in 835 local units.

In the immediate aftermath of the shutdown, all Auxiliary activities were suspended and members were not allowed to take any actions that required members to leave home or expend any Coast Guard funds, according to Hatchcover, the official publication of Flotilla 96.

Normal Auxiliary activities like vessel examinations, partner visitations, safe boating classes and community relations appearances were put on hold.

However, on Jan. 11 Vice Admiral Daniel Abel, the Coast Guard’s deputy commandant for operations, authorized Auxiliary volunteer activities such as meetings at the flotilla, district or division levels, recreational boating safety outreach, and public education, to “proceed in accordance with the Auxiliary Manual as long as there is no obligation of Coast Guard funds.”

As a result, Auxiliary members are working to make up for lost time and preparing for full operations once the shutdown ends and meetings and classes can resume, according to George Lehner, the Flotilla’s public affairs officer.

“Unfortunately, discretionary operational activities are not yet permitted, as they require funding from the Coast Guard,” Commander John Tyson, the flotilla staff officer for operations, told members on Jan. 13. “It looks like we will be off the water (unless the Station [at Fort Myers Beach] calls us out) until a continuing resolution funding the Department of Homeland Security has been approved.”

Liberty lives in light

Boaters Beware: Government shutdown begins eroding Coast Guard operations

01-10-19 uscg ft. myers beachThe US Coast Guard station at Fort Myers Beach. (Photo: USCG)

Jan. 10, 2019, by David Silverberg

The US Coast Guard remains on duty in Southwest Florida waters but the government shutdown is having an effect on some of its non-core missions.

“The Coast Guard continues operations authorized by law that provide for national security or that protect life and property during partial government shutdowns; however, there are some impacts to our day-to-day operations. The Coast Guard stops or curtails mission activities that do not fall into those categories,” Michael De Nyse, a Coast Guard public affairs specialist based in Clearwater, stated in response to questions from The Paradise Progressive.

Coast Guard operations are critical for boaters and maritime safety. The service conducts search and rescue missions, assists boaters in distress and enforces maritime rules and regulations. Other missions essential to safe water operations include maintaining channel markets and navigation aids.

The Coast Guard also interdicts drugs and contraband, prevents illegal migration and enforces environmental rules and regulations.

In Southwest Florida, the Coast Guard has operated a station in Ft. Myers Beach since 1972. Because it is part of the Department of Homeland Security it is affected by the government shutdown.

Despite uncertainty whether they will miss their first paycheck on Dec. 15, Coast Guard personnel continue working.

“Coast Guard uniformed personnel will continue to perform their duties during a partial government shutdown and will provide essential services such as search and rescue, port and homeland safety and security, law enforcement and environmental response,” wrote De Nyse.

“We don’t know how long the government shutdown will last, but we have a plan to maintain the essential safety, security, and environmental protection services the public expects from the Coast Guard,” he continued. “We will continue to monitor the situation and, if necessary, adjust our operations to ensure national security and to protect life and property.”

While operations are continuing, the shutdown is having an impact on Coast Guard families. In a five page tip sheet to Coast Guard civilian employees called Managing Your Finances During a Furlough, the service recommended cutting expenses, creating a budget, prioritizing spending, contacting creditors and tapping into community resources.

It also recommended earning outside money through such means as holding garage sales, baby or house sitting, pet walking, tutoring, turning hobbies into income or becoming a mystery shopper.

When the memo came to media attention today it was taken down.

Perhaps the most poignant and personal description of the hardships being imposed on Coast Guard families came in an essay titled “This Senseless Government Shutdown Is Harming Coast Guard Families,” by former Coast Guard commandant, Adm. Thad Allen, which was published on the website of the magazine Naval Proceedings.

Today marks the 20th day of President Donald Trump’s government shutdown.

Liberty lives in light