Jan. 16, 2019 — On Monday morning, Senior Chief Jay Nilles, officer in charge of Station Siuslaw River, agreed to host a small meeting for concerned citizens working to assist Coast Guard personnel affected by the federal government shut down. The group wanted to spread the most current information available on ways to support the Coast Guard and other federal employees, many of whom haven’t been paid since the shutdown began on Dec. 22.
“We’re here, the lights are still on and we’re still able to respond,” Nilles said.
On Tuesday, the Coast Guard did not get paid for any work done since Jan. 1, despite active-duty members being required to work and train as usual throughout the 26 days the shutdown has lasted so far. Money came through for the Coast Guard for one check early in the shutdown process, but either one of the two federal “Pay Our Coast Guard Acts” or a signed budget will need to pass before additional funds are released.
For families in the Siuslaw region needing to pay rent, utilities and living expenses, including food and transportation, those funds can’t come soon enough. In the meantime, local community members have come together to offer resources once an outlet is in place.
Florence Mayor Joe Henry said, “It is important that something gets done. It is good to see this community step up and step forward to help make that happen. And I hope it continues going further until the situation is resolved.”
Henry was speaking of a “Military Assistance Program” list created by Oregon Coast Military Museum and Museum Executive Director Cal Applebee. The list, now available at TheSiuslawNews.com and other community sites, both details how people can make direct donations on behalf of Station Siuslaw River to the Chief Petty Officers Association (CPOA) in North Bend — which will then send support back to the local station and throughout the sector — as well as the best, most ethical methods of supporting affected individuals and families. The list will be updated throughout the current shutdown as more permanent ways of supporting local military personnel are crafted.
Applebee said he launched a request last week “insisting that we do something, since we’re a Coast Guard City. … The initial concern for the entire community was getting funding in place for the COAST GUARD members who weren’t getting a paycheck (Tuesday).”
He acknowledged that many of the programs listed on the military museum’s form are catered to the COAST GUARD, as opposed to other furloughed employees.
“The Coasties’ plight is the main one that has been brought to our attention officially,” he said. “We can’t be all things to everybody; we can only address what we know about and what we can do. Once we get this resolved or under control, (we’ll see) if there’s more we can do.”
According to the Oregon Coast Military Museum board, the museum has a highly specific mission, and while military assistance is in line with that, some of the other community needs or even the financial side fall outside its jurisdiction. Where possible, the updated list will include services open to both military and civilian people.
For example, Coast Guard personnel can take advantage of any community services offered to other members of the community such as through Food Share, SOS, Salvation Army, local faith organizations and others.
However, cash contributions cannot be given directly to the local Coast Guard Unit nor to any personnel. People can donate monetarily through the Coast Guard CPOA, which is a 501(c) 3 operated out of Coast Guard Sector North Bend for the benefit of the entire sector, from Depoe Bay south to the California border.
People can make sure that funds donated to this account are sent back to the local station by making checks payable to the Chief Petty Officers Association and referencing Station Siuslaw River in the comment line. These can then be dropped off at the Siuslaw News, 148 Maple St., or mailed to the Siuslaw News at PO Box 10, Florence OR 97439.
Checks will be delivered to the Station in North Bend in order to ensure that they are channeled back to our local unit.
In addition, gift cards can also be donated to the local Coast Guard distributed to Coast Guard personnel based on need. These can also be dropped off at the Siuslaw News.
“CPOA has done a great job so far,” Nilles said. “We’ve received numerous messages from folks wanting to donate … A lot of feedback we’ve been getting is that they want their donations to stay local.”
He confirmed that funds without the “Station Siuslaw River” designation will still remain in Sector North Bend to benefit this part of the Oregon coast.
In the meantime, the Military Assistance Program includes other ways the community is offering support. These include military and first responder discounts, community services open to all and financial assistance.
For things like utilities, Central Lincoln PUD Public Affairs Manager Chris Chandler said the best thing to do was notify the PUD ahead of time and be willing to work out a plan.
“Call us a day or two before the bill is due to work with us,” she said. “Please don’t assume we know you are a federal employee, as we don’t keep records like that information. We’re happy to do all we can to work with our customers.”
This policy goes for all federal employees and contractors, not just the COAST GUARD.
Something similar is in place at Coastal Property Management in Florence.
Barry Nivilinszky, the president of the company, reports that Coastal Property Management is determined to assist any and all individuals impacted adversely by the government shutdown.
“We are currently foregoing any collection efforts and waiving any late fees for all federal employees that have been furloughed or are not being paid during the shutdown,” Nivilinszky said. “We discussed the situation with our owners and decided that this was the right thing to do. These people mean a lot to our community and we do not want to make this difficult time harder for them than it already is. This policy will continue until the shutdown has ended.”
Further information from other utilities and housing agencies is expected to come in as the Military Assistance Program gets further updates.
In terms of banking, local banks are stepping forward with no-interest loans or internal programs. People just have to reach out directly to make arrangements.
“We’ve encouraged all of our folks to make phone calls to their lenders and creditors and discuss the current situation. For some of our junior folks, we’re providing assistance to them on how to do that,” Nilles said.
On Monday, Oregon Pacific Bank, headquartered in Florence, announced the creation of a special loan program to help with cash flow needs.
This includes a restricted line of credit for furloughed federal employees who are not receiving a regular paycheck. Current federal government employees can stop by their local Oregon Pacific Bank branch, 1355 Highway 101 in Florence, and apply for a special line of credit that will allow for monthly advances equal to their net take home pay, up to a maximum of $10,000 total for six months. Some restrictions apply, so interested parties should visit their local branch, call 800-997-7121 or visit www.opbc.com for more information.
For personnel with further needs, such as daycare, Station Siuslaw River does not currently have on an on-base facility.
However, Boys & Girls Club of Western Lane County has offered to waive all the After-School Program Fees for both Coast Guard and First Responder Families with children in the program, from ages 6 to 18.
This could help the 38 Coast Guardsmen at Station Siuslaw River, where roughly half of those have dependents in terms of spouses or children.
Nilles said further information on these and other issues is still forthcoming.
“We’re trying to take everything we’re getting from our seniors in leadership and feed it directly through to our crew as quickly and rapidly as possible and get them the best information we can,” he said.
In turn, Coast Guard, local, state and national representatives are continuing to update the rest of the country on the effects of the shutdown. Additional information will be made public when available.
“There has been an overwhelming outreach of support from the City of Florence and all of you,” Nilles said. “Thank you all for taking part in supporting everyone that is affected by the current situation going on politically.”
One local veterans group, the Band of Brothers, has donated $1,000 to support individuals stationed at Coast Guard Station Siuslaw River. The Band of Brothers is made up of members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3232, Disabled American Veterans Florence #23 and American Legion Post #59. Additionally, the groups will be selling poppies and forget-me-nots in Florence — on Saturday at Fred Meyer, Sunday at Safeway, Monday at Fred Meyer and Tuesday at Bi-Mart. All proceeds from these flower sales will go directly to local Coast Guard families.