Well, folks. There’s a government shutdown… again. For the third time this year (which is unprecedented, btdubs), the US government has come to a grinding halt and military families have worried about getting paid on time. John and I lived through the 2013 government shutdown as newlyweds when I didn’t have job; we were nervous wrecks. I get it. It’s scary. There are a lot of rumors. And there’s a lot of ulcer-inducing fear to figure out how you’re going to pay those bills in the event the government does not pay out on time.
I’ve collected as much information as I’ve been able to find that is up-to-date to help put some of those worries to rest and to give you the chance to create a plan.
Note: If you’re here to get in an online screaming match with me, please move along. This article is solely to inform military families about their options during this government shutdown.
The good news?
The vast majority of military families are not affected by this 2018-2019 government shutdown. Army, Marine, Air Force, and Navy families will get paid on time during the shutdown because the DoD’s budget was passed earlier this year. (Phew.)
The bad news?
The shutdown still affects 42,000 military members in the Coast Guard. (And yes, they are members of the military!) Because the Coast Guard is funded through the Department of Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense, Coasties are in limbo when it comes to their pay. (But, of course, they’re still expected to go to work.) What’s worse? Because the Coast Guard is small– and let’s be honest, many Americans don’t realize that the Coast Guard is part of the military– there’s simply not the public outrage there’s been in the past surrounding military members and pay during shutdowns.
Ugh. So what happened this time?
The government came to a grinding halt December 2018. President Trump said he would not support spending legislation that does not include $5 billion dollars for the US-Mexico border wall he campaigned on during the 2016 election. Without a bill that appropriates money for certain agencies and departments (including the Department of Homeland Security) going into 2019, many federal workers and Coasties are now in financial limbo. (Veterans and military family members make a large percentage of the 800,000 affected federal workers, which is a whole ‘nother conversation.) Democrats in the House have tried to pass a spending bill three times to end the shutdown and House Republicans have tried to do the same with a vote on their own spending bill.
To date, the Government Shutdown is the longest in the history of the US and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.
So what does that mean for Coast Guard families?
For Active Duty Coast Guard Members
If they haven’t done so yet, Coast Guard families should make contingency plans for how they’ll balance their finances. (Easier said than done, I know! And incredibly frustrating for families living away from military centers with little support as it is.) Currently, there are some options for extremely low or no interest loans:
New USAA loan option
USAA has rolled out a new loan product for military families affected by the shutdown. With government shutdowns becoming increasingly likely and prolonged, USAA has reevaluated and revamped their loan options to give military families more flexibility. In the past, USAA offered a 0% interest payroll advance– which meant that members borrowed their entire paycheck amount during government shutdowns. Now, members affected by government shutdowns can choose how much they need and can pick a flexible payment plan. If you choose an automatic payment plan, your APR for the loan is 0.01%. Others without an automatic payment plan will have a .026% APR.
To qualify, you must be a USAA member who is affected by the shutdown as a member of the Coast Guard or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Corps. Retired and separated members are not eligible. You must also have received a direct deposit to your USAA Deposit Account from the Coast Guard or NOAA in October and November 2018. If you’re eligible; check your email. You should already have a detailed communication from USAA waiting for you.
Navy Federal loan option
Navy Federal Credit Union has announced a loan option for affected members of the Coast Guard as well. These 0% APR loans are available if you register during and up to three days after your paycheck is to arrive. The amount you’re eligible to borrow against is contingent upon what the government direct deposits into your NFCU account. The loan range spans $250 to $6,000. Repayment is automatically deducted in full once the government shutdown ends and your first paycheck hist your NFCU account. For more information, click here.
UPDATED 1/14/2019: American Legion Grants
The American Legion is working with Coast Guard Mutual Assistance to offer grants to “help minor children in the home of active-duty servicemembers or current American Legion members with assistance for the costs of shelter, food, utilities, clothing, and health expenses during times of financial need.” Eligible Coast Guard families can request up to $1,500. Learn more here.
UPDATED 1/14/2019: Mutual Aid Societies
The Coast Guard Mutual Aid assistance has posted this message on their website:
All other guidance concerning the other Mutual Aid Societies should be disregarded. The other Mutual Aid Societies (MAS) are Army Emergency Relief, Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society, Air Force Aid Society and the American Red Cross. Duration the funding lapse period, the other MAS are not authorized to provide any lapse related assistance. CG personnel (active duty and civilians) may receive lapse assistance only from a CGMA representative. The other MAS may only provide limited emergency assistance for situations not related to the lapse, such as emergency travel or emergency vehicle repairs.
UPDATE 1/14/2019: For Coast Guard Retirees
The Coast Guard has issued a statement for Coast Guard retirees, mentioning that “If the lapse continues through the end of January, retirees may not get paid.” You can read the entire statement here.
I said it earlier in 2018, and I’ll say it again: but let’s be real: this will most likely happen over and over again. In just over a year, we’ve had 1 shutdown scare in April 2017 and 2 actual shutdowns in less than a month. This is probably a new normal, to be really honest. Here’s a post on how to shore up your family’s finances so you can get started planning for the next shutdown.