Reversed Course: Coast Guard Will Now Get Final 2018 Paychecks

Complications arose because service funded through Homeland Security, but pay schedule is military

Coast Guard personnel will likely miss getting partial paychecks because of a quirk in the military pay schedule and the service’s funding, all caused by the partial government shutdown. (CQ Roll Call file photo)
Coast Guard personnel will likely miss getting partial paychecks because of a quirk in the military pay schedule and the service’s funding, all caused by the partial government shutdown. (CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted December 28, 2018 at 2:25pm

Active-duty members of the Coast Guard will receive their Dec. 31 paychecks after the administration reversed course on Friday evening, according to a post on the agency’s blog.

“Generally, the Coast Guard lacks the authority to pay its members during a lapse in appropriations,” the post read. “The circumstances of this lapse are unique because of the timeline of the lapse in relation to the military pay process. Ultimately, extensive research and legal analysis between the Coast Guard, [Department of Homeland Security], and [Office of Management and Budget] determined the Coast Guard has the authority to execute the remainder of pay and allowances for December.”

Earlier Friday, Coast Guard spokesman Chad Saylor had said the partial government shutdown would cause Coast Guard uniformed personnel to miss their paychecks.

Roughly 42,000 service members, who are typically paid on the first and 15th of each month, wouldn’t have received their next paycheck — set to go out on Dec. 31 given the New Year’s Day holiday — due to the ongoing stalemate between Congress and the White House over southern border barriers.

The prospect of a lack of pay for one of the five branches of the military brought a backlash from members of Congress.

“Most federal employees will receive their scheduled paychecks today, but that is not the case for 42,000 Coast Guard members, who will not be paid for pre-shutdown work because they are under a different pay system. This is not fair. I called the WH to urge an immediate fix,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, tweeted earlier Friday.

While the Coast Guard is a branch of the armed services, it isn’t funded through the annual Defense spending bill, which became law  in September. The Coast Guard is funded through the Department of Homeland Security — one of the nine departments experiencing a partial shutdown after Congress was unable to reach an agreement with the White House to pass a temporary funding extension.

The divide over the border wall which led to the shutdown, appears set to last into the New Year. 

Most of the affected agencies’ civilian employees will get paid Dec. 28, or a few days later, for work performed prior to the start of the shutdown on Dec. 22. That’s because their pay period generally ran from Dec. 9-22.

But since the military pay schedule is different — the pre-shutdown pay period was Dec. 1-15 — Coast Guard members initially wouldn’t have gotten paid for work they did through Dec. 21. That’s because military pay systems don’t allow for paychecks covering a partial pay period, according to a Q&A document posted on the Coast Guard’s website.

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Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.