Seafarers’ Center, chamber, reveal plan to help Coasties

Published 12:47 pm Wednesday, January 16, 2019

By Ken Stickney

The International Seafarers’ Center in Port Arthur and the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce launched an effort Wednesday to help Coast Guard families stationed in and around Greater Port Arthur.

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That effort comes as the Coasties missed their first mid-month paycheck this week, which reflects cutbacks to the Department of Homeland Security in the face of a continuing, partial shutdown of the federal government. The Coast Guard serves under Homeland Security.

Some Coast Guard members and employees have been furloughed, others are continuing to stand watch without pay. Locally, the Coast Guard is stationed at the Coast Guard Marine Station Unit in Port Arthur, U.S. Coast Guard Station Sabine, Aids to Navigation Team Sabine, Coast Guard Cutter Stingray and Liquefied Gas Carrier National Center of Expertise at MSU Port Arthur.

“Today you will not be receiving your regularly scheduled mid-month paycheck. To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time in our Nation’s history that servicemembers in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriations,” Adm. Karl L. Schultz, Coast Guard commandant, said in the message to the 42,000 men and women serving in the Coast Guard. “Your senior leadership, including Secretary Nielsen, remains fully engaged and we will maintain a steady flow of communications to keep you updated on developments.”

Schultz said Coast Guard service organizations around the country are mobilizing to provide assistance where needed.

“I recognize the anxiety and uncertainty this situation places on you and your family, and we are working closely with service organizations on your behalf,” he wrote.

Doreen Badeaux of the Seafarers’ Center and Bill McCoy of the Chamber both said restrictions on private aid to the Coast Guard are severe, and their efforts on behalf of the local Coast Guard units permit only about $100 a year to each Coast Guard member. The goal locally is to raise $22,000 to help Coast Guard families — the maximum permitted.

In response to a question during a call with Texas reporters Wednesday, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he would review restrictions on community contributions to Coast Guard members in such circumstances.

McCoy and Badeaux said private contributions must be made to the Seafarers’ Center — write the checks to PAISC — with Coast Guard Foundation written in the memo field.

The Seafarers’ Center is a 501c3 not-for-profit entity, and donors can receive a donation letter for tax purposes. If contributing in person, take contributions to the Seafarers’ Center at 401 Houston Ave., Port Arthur.

Other local federal employees, including TSA at the airport and agency employees at the Port of Port Arthur, were also temporarily furloughed.