Jan. 26, 2019 — The longest running government shutdown in United States history concluded on Friday, marking an end to the 35-day shutdown which saw federal workers furloughed or working without pay.
The Siuslaw region came out in force to help those affected by the shutdown in recent weeks as thousands of dollars of assistance poured in to help struggling federal workers. Most notably, a large effort was made to support U.S. Coast Guard Station Siuslaw River, whose members were required to work without pay. Florence has been officially designated a Coast Guard City.
“The support has been overwhelming by all the community, it’s been amazing,” said Kevin Sweetman, U.S. Coast Guard Communication Supervisor at North Bend. “And that appreciation comes from all of our units, from all the way down to the California border up to Depoe Bay. All the local communities up and down the coastline have been overwhelming with their support. We greatly appreciate it.”
How much was donated to the nonprofit Chief Petty Officers Association of Coast Guard Sector North Bend, whose district includes the U.S. Coast Guard Station Siuslaw River, hadn’t been completely tabulated as of Friday.
“We still haven’t had all the units report everything they received,” Sweetman said. “A lot of stuff is being processed in the mail as well and being sent to units. I really don’t want to speculate.”
However, estimates could put the total amount of donations within the North Bend Sector in the hundreds of thousands.
The Siuslaw News collected more than $30,000 in cash and checks from the community as support poured in for the Station Siuslaw River after a call for donations came from Florence Mayor Joe Henry and the Oregon Coast Military Museum.
As of last Thursday, $9,100 alone had come in from the American Legion Post 59, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 3232, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Florence Chapter, the VFW Auxiliary, the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary and the Band of Brothers. However, additional funds have come in since that initial count, pushing the total donated by these veterans’ groups above $10,000.
An additional $20,000 has come in from community members looking to help, giving checks as high as $500 and cash donations as small as $5 — any amount that people could afford. Even coins made it into the mix, including a large jar of quarters donated by the Moore family.
This isn’t counting the stacks of gift cards that came in.
“There have been a lot of gift cards,” Sweetman said. “A lot of food donated as well. It’s incredible to see how much food has come in from everywhere. Not just from people, but from different businesses all over.”
Spruce Point gave free lunch to servicemen and their families, Darlings Marina and RV Resort gave 50 percent discounts to all Coasties and their immediate family members, Cross Road Assembly of God offered assistance with gas, gift cards to Fred Meyer and utility bills, Domino’s Pizza provided gift cards and 50 percent off at locations in Florence and Coos Bay, and Siuslaw Outreach Services provided assistance — among many others who donated anonymously.
“I’ve heard a lot of success stories of landlords and utility companies deferring payments, and credit card companies deferring payments,” Sweetman said.
Money poured in from around the state as well, including $90,000 from the American Legion Department of Oregon, which wrote 60 checks at $1,500 each through its Temporary Financial Assistance program.
While the current shutdown is coming to a close, many of the long-standing issues that caused the government shutdown — including the funding of a border wall — have not yet been settled. The current agreement only provides a three-week reprieve for both sides to find a more permanent solution. If one is not found by Feb. 15, the government could be shut down again.
Because of that, Sweetman stopped short of expressing total relief for the current agreement.
“I don’t have a grasp of the situation,” he said, stating he had not yet looked at the specifics of the deal. “From what I heard, it’s three weeks. It’s a relief for sure, but temporarily. I think we would all do a lot better when an actual budget gets approved.”
It is unclear when federal government will release funds for federal workers.