In this July 19, 2015 photo released by the U.S. Coast Guard, a Coast Guard Cutter Stratton boarding team investigates a self-propelled semi-submersible in international waters off the coast of Central America. 
Photo by LaNola Stone/U.S. Coast Guard/ AP

During shutdown, unpaid Coast Guard officials receive depressing advice

The current government shutdown, poised to become the longest in American history, doesn’t affect every federal department and agency. Appropriations for the Department of Defense, for example, were approved before Donald Trump’s stunt began a few weeks ago.

But that’s cold comfort to the Coast Guard, which is a branch of the U.S. military, but which falls inside the Department of Homeland Security. As a result, thousands of Coast Guard officials are currently on indefinite furlough, and many of them are deemed “essential” – which means they have to work without pay.

What are they supposed to do about paying their bills? As the Washington Post  reported overnight, these officials have received some depressing advice.

Employees of the U.S. Coast Guard who are facing a long U.S. government shutdown just received a suggestion: To get by without pay, consider holding a garage sale, babysitting, dog-walking or serving as a “mystery shopper.”

The suggestions were part of a five-page tip sheet published by the Coast Guard Support Program, an employee-assistance arm of the service often known as CG SUPRT. It is designated to offer Coast Guard members help with mental-health issues or other concerns about their lives, including financial wellness.

“Bankruptcy is a last option,” the document said.

As regular readers know, the president has been preoccupied to an almost creepy degree with the Coast Guard’s “brand,” gushing for months about how much it’s “improved” in recent years.

Of course, Coast Guard officials can’t pay the rent with Trump’s impressions of their “brand.”

The “tip sheet” published by the Coast Guard Support Program comes on the heels of similar advice from the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the federal civilian workforce. As the Washington Post  reported two weeks ago, OPM suggested federal employees affected by the partial government shutdown “barter” with their landlords.

The document recommended that workers offer to “perform maintenance (e.g. painting, carpentry work) in exchange for partial rent payments.”

There’s no evidence that any of this advice will work – a family can only hold so many garage sales, and there aren’t that many “secret shopper” gigs to go around – even as a stop-gap solution.

But let’s also not forget that Trump has raised the prospect of a shutdown that lasts months, and possibly years.

If recent history is any guide, the president will likely call the affected Coast Guard officials “patriots,” which for Trump often means “people getting hurt by my policies, but whom I assume don’t mind.”