Lifeboat operational through shutdown


MORRO BAY With a partial shutdown of the Federal Government in effect since Dec. 22, 2018, this week marked the first time in more than two centuries of contiguous service that a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces served an entire pay period without knowing when they might see a check.

Paychecks were not delivered on Tuesday, Jan. 15, to 42,000 members of the U.S. Coast Guard, just over 30 of whom serve at the Coast Guard Lifeboat Station in Morro Bay.

A relatively short trip up Highway 41 from Atascadero, the station hosts service members originally hailing from all over the country, but who must find local accommodation while they’re posted here. That means the post shares housing and commute trends with other regional employers and roughly a third of their “workforce” lives between Atascadero and Paso Robles, said an officer on duty.

On Monday, Executive Petty Officer Kacy Jones told a visiting reporter that himself and the men and women of the command appreciated community efforts to rally around them, but he was confident they’d survive the setbacks and be on duty to fulfill the search and rescue mission of the station no matter what.

Like other emergency service personnel, the Coast Guard remain active to ensure the safety of people and property, but other activities such as training exercises have been suspended through the shutdown. He did add that the rainy weather is a blessing in disguise this time of year as members of the public are less likely to take out a pleasure craft and need rescuing.

Both the station and the regional Coast Guard public affairs number have been hearing from community members asking if there are ways to help out.

Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney, at the Coast Guard Los Angeles-Long Beach, 11th District, Public Affairs Office said that as the date passed for their first missed check the public had started calling checking how to go about giving donations.

It is an unusual spot to be in he noted, because such requests would usually go through the normal channels of the USO, the (United Service Organizations) nonprofit which directs aid for Armed Force Service members all over the world.

Except for their funding mechanisms being under the auspice of the Department of Homeland Security, which is impacted during the shutdown, he said, the Coast Guard is very much like the other service branches. They also have a list of restrictions on individual gifts which can be accepted by members. Not surprisingly there are prohibitions against accepting anything from people or organizations which do business with the Guard, as well as caps on monetary value.

Executive Petty Officer Jones noted that offers of care packages and other gifts were kind and much appreciated, but currently unnecessary, although he did say that he’d had time to reflect on the last time he was unemployed.

“It’s a little easier this time with something to do,” he said.

Petty Officer Barney, added that there have been policy notes circulated which attempt to address the issues faced by the lower ranks, including guidance on taking leave, in addition to other circulars which have gained attention, such as instructions on “how to hold garage sales.”

No interest loans have also been made available for some service members.

On Wednesday, Jan. 16, management at Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton announced that, for the duration of the shutdown, they are offering Active Duty U.S. Coast Guard members and their immediate families, free meals in both their dining rooms and at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo.

Mark Lisa, CEO of Sierra Vista and Twin Cities, is also a retired Naval Officer.

“The Coast Guard motto is Semper Paratus, which means ‘Always Prepared.’ Our country and specifically our Central Coast expects these Coast Guardsmen to always be prepared, even now, so we need to be prepared to support them,” Lisa said in a press statement.

Atascadero Loaves and Fishes, located at 5411 El Camino Real in Atascadero, is also offering aid to federal employees and dependants impacted during the shutdown. Residents from within the service area of Santa Margarita, Atascadero, Templeton, Creston and California Valley, can be eligible for a three-day emergency supply of groceries.

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