U.S. Congressman Salud Carbajal shared a story of concern and uncertainty during a visit to his home district Saturday, meeting with Coast Guard members stationed in Morro Bay who are going without pay as the partial government shutdown entered its 28th day.
Carbajal, a Democrat who represents San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties as well as a portion of Ventura County, heard firsthand stories from servicemen and shared what resources were available to them under the circumstances. Carbajal also wanted to share his perspective on the events unfolding in the nation’s capital as negotiations to end the shutdown continue.
While members of the Coast Guard are not permitted to speak to the media during the shutdown, Carbajal relayed some of the stories he heard.
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“One of them shared that retention and recruitment for the future (was a concern),” Carbajal told The Tribune. “How are you going to tell someone, ‘Join the great military in the Coast Guard, but from time to time we close you down and give you a lot of anxiety?’ It’s not a good feeling or a good message.”
The Coast Guard is the only military branch that does not receive funding during a government shutdown because it falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security, not the Department of Defense. Coast Guard personnel work with the promise of back pay, but there is no telling when that will be.
Carbajal spoke of newer seamen who had only been at the station for a few months. They worry they won’t be able to pay rent, he said, leading to evictions and ultimately impacting their credit for future housing — in this market or if they are moved to a different base.
Others are concerned about mortgage payments or how those with families that don’t live locally are going to get by. During his visit, two members of the community brought donations to the door of the station, located just off the Embarcadero.
“I wanted them to know that I certainly know what it’s like being in the military,” said Carbajal, who served in the Marine Corps and announced last week he would go without pay during the shutdown in solidarity with workers and servicemen. “You have a mission, you are committed to this country and you’re doing the best you can.”
Morro Bay City Councilwoman Dawn Addis named several organizations that are extending help. Grill Hut in Morro Bay is offering free meals to the Coast Guard, and Sierra Vista Hospital is offering free meals to any federal workers who need help.
Addis said those who need food for their children can sign up for free and reduced lunches through the school district, as well as use the local food bank as a resource.
“Kevin Drabinski (CEO of the Food Bank Coalition of SLO County) has told us he has trucks ready to roll the minute we say we need food for these folks and their families,” Morro Bay City Councilman Robert Davis said.
A Gofundme has been created out of Cambria to help the Coast Guard specifically with cash, and Davis said the Morro Bay Rotary Club and Morro Bay Harbor, fire and police departments raised a combined $1,600 this week.
“The most pressing need is going to be for cash because all of these people are living on the economy,” Davis said. “(The need is) not just food, they have to pay for their housing.”
Davis added that the Coast Guard has set up a way to accept cash through the Chief Petty Officer’s Association. The Harbor Department, which neighbors the Coast Guard building, is also accepting drop-offs and donations.
While the door usually remains closed to the building, Davis said that the Coast Guard are more than willing to welcome anyone who wants to see what they are donating to.
Addis and Davis are happy with the generosity of the community — not only in Morro Bay, but the county — but they hope for it to be a sustained effort.
”We don’t want this to be a week-long enthusiasm that wears off because the need is going to continue to grow,” Davis said.
The Morro Bay City Council will decide on Tuesday if they will write a letter to President Trump regarding the shutdown. As for how long the shutdown will continue?
“The answer is: none of us know,” Carbajal said.
“At the end of the day, we should be able to negotiate on things no matter how controversial or tough they are, as we do in the normal course of government,” he said.