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Legion wants lifeline for Coast Guard

January 28, 2019

MICHIGAN CITY — The state leader of one of the nation’s largest service organizations is calling on residents and Congress to do more to help members of the U.S. Coast Guard affected by the just-ended government shutdown.

“There are currently 41,000 Coast Guard service members that have went without pay since Jan. 1 due to the government shutdown,” Indiana American Legion Commander Rodney Strong said. “This is completely unacceptable and our veterans community needs to act now.”

That would include the 19 Coast Guard members stationed in Michigan City.

Strong and the Legion are taking a two-pronged approach, asking for donations to help the men and women of the Coast Guard, and calling on Congress to pass a law protecting them in the event of future shutdowns.

“Our Coast Guard has not been paid since Jan. 1. While President Trump has announced a three-week respite to the government shutdown with plans to pay the Coast Guard, the need is still great,” he said.

“Members are suffering to pay late fees, have had utilities shut down, and face other financial repercussions,” Strong said. He called on Indiana residents to help The American Legion “assist our brothers and sisters of the United States Coast Guard.”

The Legion has already awarded almost $700,000 in non-repayable grants to junior ranking Coast Guard families in need, he said.

But, “There are hundreds of additional requests already in the pipeline which The American Legion is trying to grant, but we have a very limited budget. So any amount that you can give would be most appreciated.”

To donate to #RescueOurCoast Guard, visit indianalegion.org/donate.html.

Strong and the Legion also want to make sure this situation never arises again.

Congress must “take action now on behalf of our Coast Guard members,” he said, and the public can help.

“Demand the 116th Congress immediately pass and the president sign a clean version of the Pay Our Coast Guard Act, HR 367. The demand is urgent.”

The bill would provide continuing appropriations to the Coast Guard for any period during FY2019 in which interim or full-year appropriations are not in effect.

Appropriations are provided for pay and allowances for members, civilian employees and contractors; benefits for retirees; and the payment of a death benefits for dependents of members dying on active duty.

“The bill compensates civilian Coast Guard employees furloughed as a result of a lapse in appropriations that began on or about Dec. 22, 2018, and ended upon enactment of this bill,” Strong said.

He urges Indiana residents to contact their federal legislators to request support for the measure. They can also show support by going to cqrcengage.com/indlegion/app/onestep-write-a-letter?1&engagmentId=495723.

—From staff reports

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