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Coast Guard spouses keep to tight budgets as shutdown ends

January 26, 2019
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U.S. Coast Guard spouse Mariah Battermann, left, fills her plate, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I. The college offered a free dinner for active-duty Coast Guard members and their families in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts who are working without pay during the partial federal shutdown. The Coast Guard is affected because it's part of the Department of Homeland Security. Other military services receive funding through the Defense Department. (AP Photo/Jennifer McDermott)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — U.S. Coast Guard spouses in southern New England say they’ll continue to spend money cautiously even though the longest government shutdown in U.S. history has ended.

President Donald Trump signed a bill Friday to reopen the government for three weeks, backing down from his demand that Congress give him money for his border wall before federal agencies go back to work.

Mariah Battermann and Rachel Malcom, whose husbands serve in the Coast Guard in Rhode Island, and Crystal Simmons, whose husband serves in Connecticut, all said on Saturday that they’re sticking to the tight budgets they adopted when the government shut down. They worry the government will be shuttered again.

“I would have breathed a much larger sigh of relief if it was a permanent, not temporary, agreement,” Battermann said. “We’re just still uncertain as to how to proceed with this. For our household, we’re definitely going to stay cautious.”

“You can only be so happy because you just have to know that it could happen again,” added Malcom. “We’re going to be playing catch up, so I don’t want to overspend.”

Battermann and Malcom were at the United Baptist Church in Newport, Rhode Island on Saturday, opening a resource center where people affected by the partial government shutdown could pick up household goods. They said they wanted to open the “Beacon for the Brave Resource Center” as planned because there’s going to be a lapse in time before people get their paychecks and they want to be of service until this uncertainty is over.

Some 800,000 workers were furloughed or required to work without pay for 35 days, including members of the Coast Guard. They will receive back pay, but it’s unclear when. The White House tweeted that it will be “in the coming days.”

“You’re looking at almost a week to process back pay and that gives us maybe two weeks to breathe a little more normally, then we may be in the same situation,” Simmons said by phone from Connecticut. “I don’t think I can really relax and go back to the way things were.”

Simmons said she’ll continue to buy bare necessities and go fewer places to save on gasoline, but it won’t take too long for her family to recover because they relied on income from her job in admissions at Mitchell College in New London, Connecticut.

“There were a couple of bills we had to push off and they were accommodating in working with us. For a lot of families who are a one-income family, it’s going to take a much longer time,” said Simmons, who administers a Facebook group for New London Coast Guard families. “It’s so disheartening to know that.”

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