Actions You Can Take To Reopen the Coast Guard
The federal government has been partially closed for thirty-three days, and the shutdown will continue until at least mid-February. The following is a list of steps you can take to help reopen the Coast Guard and put food on the table during the interim. This list is based on my experience as a former Coast Guard officer, a currently elected local official and a lobbyist.
Don’t Assume Knowledge
Don’t assume that your elected officials or local press know how many Coast Guard personnel in their city or state are impacted by the shutdown. Most of them never served in the Coast Guard, so they don’t know how many people work in New Orleans or Seattle.
Publicly share the information with them - tweet it and tag them. Post it on their Facebook and Instagram accounts. There are over 4,000 Coast Guard personnel in the greater DC area, and that’s the number I share with House and Senate staffers from the surrounding area to help them understand why their bosses should vote to provide funding for the agency.
Reporters use the information to write articles, and that’s another goal. The more articles that are written, the more people know about the pain the shutdown is creating for Coast Guard families. Increased knowledge creates pressure on elected officials, so don’t let up, keep applying the pressure.
Ask Local Elected Officials for Specific Help
At at a fundraiser last week for Coast Guard servicemembers, the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers' Association shared that they needed diapers. I wouldn’t have known about the need if they hadn't made the specific ask. This request triggered a conversation with the Greater DC Diaper Bank. which provided 10,000 diapers, formula, and hygiene products to DC-based Coast Guard personnel on Monday.
You can make the same ask for food supplies and other essential items in Miami and Norfolk. Locally elected officials are appalled that you aren’t getting paid. Asking them for help turns their anger into a positive result - food on your table.
Like me, your locally elected official will use the information to shame federal counterparts into action. Coast Guard personnel are conducting search and rescue missions but they can’t afford diapers or food. That sound bite will be shared over and over again.
Email Distribution Lists
While the House, Senate, and President negotiate the opening of the government, you still need food and essentials. Every elected official has an email distribution list for communicating with their constituents. Ask them to take point on receiving information on fundraisers and dinners for Coast Guard personnel and then distributing the information to the greater community.
First, it ensures that everyone within the community, Coast Guard families and non-Coast Guard families are aware of all support opportunities. Over the past several weeks, dinners were held for furloughed employees in DC but folks didn’t know about them because of limited distribution of information. Don’t let happen in your community.
Second, action increases action. When Restaurant X learns about the spaghetti dinner that Restaurant Y is holding on Thursday night for Coast Guard families, Restaurant X is likely to do the same. Make sure to invite the press to the event and record how many dinners are being served.
Turn Off the Spigot
While you aren’t getting paid, politicians at the local, state, and federal level are. They’re also holding fundraisers for their next campaigns. Each fundraiser is usually a $10,000 event. Ask them to stop raising money until you receive a paycheck. Nothing motivates an elected official more than loss of money.
Please know that people are fighting for you. Americans from around the country are donating money in record numbers to Coast Guard Mutual Assistance - $480,000 and rising. The American Legion has provided over $574,000 in grants. USAA donated $15 million to CGMA and the USCGA Alumni Association has raised almost $140,000.
I had the privilege of attending a Coast Guard fundraiser hosted by American Legion Post 8 last week. The post raised $5,000 dollars, including three checks for $1,000 each from the Transportation Institute, the American Maritime Partnership, and the Armed Force Retirement Home. Ninety-year-old Army and Air Force veterans came out in the snow to make sure you knew that they had your back.
I know that it is painful to seek assistance from others. At one point in my life, I had to file for unemployment insurance. I was embarrassed and my pride almost kept me from doing so. But I also had young children and I needed to put food on the table, and that’s why I’m sharing my story.
Seeking help is a sign of success, not failure. So go to the food bank and stock your cupboards. Ask your elected officials for help and know that you have folks in your corner that will fight with you to open the Coast Guard.
K. Denise Rucker Krepp is a former Coast Guard officer and currently a locally elected official and lobbyist.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.