In January, Pinellas resident Chelsey Gutierrez, the wife of Coast Guardsman Chris Gutierrez, mother to two young boys, wrote me, sharing the pain the government shutdown had brought to their family.
Unlike our sailors, soldiers, airmen, and marines, the entire United States Coast Guard was going without pay.
This was the first time in America’s history we failed to pay military service members due to a government shutdown.
To bring attention to the increasingly desperate situation, I brought Chelsey as my guest to the State of the Union Address. Chelsey described being forced to beg creditors and utility companies just to keep the lights on, all while Chris was deployed.
As governor and now as congressman, I have witnessed firsthand the impressive work the Coast Guard perform every day. Pinellas County is home to the nation’s largest Coast Guard air station, in Clearwater, and sector St. Petersburg conducts the most search-and-rescue deployments in the country.
USCG plays a vital role in protecting maritime commerce across the U.S. through security missions. They help facilitate over $4.6 trillion in economic activity accounting for 23 million jobs.
But, as the smallest military service — and the only one under the Department of Homeland Security — the Coast Guard is subject to greater budgetary risk than their fellow military branches.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure committee approved a measure by voice vote Wednesday that reauthorized the Coast Guard until 2021, and would require members in the Coast Guard to receive paychecks on time in the event of a government shutdown.
Looking towards the end of the year, uncertainty around keeping the government funded remains high.
No one wants a government shutdown. It shouldn’t happen. But if, God forbid, it does, we shouldn’t withhold pay from a branch of the U.S. military.
The Pay Our USCG Parity Act, which I am proud to support, would ensure our Coast Guard is paid. The Gutierrez’s, and all Coasties, deserve absolute faith that our country, which they so dutifully serve, will be there for them when they need it.
Rep. Charlie Crist represents Florida’s 13th congressional district.
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