A kind gesture that the Coast Guard could not accept

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Ray Durazo loves the Coast Guard. “If you talk to any boater in California, everyone is going to say, ‘We love the Coasties,’ ” said Durazo, a member of Half Moon Bay (Calif.) Yacht Club. “We love that they’re here keeping us safe on the water.”

During the shutdown, Durazo and other club members knew Coast Guard personnel were struggling, so they wanted to invite them to a dinner at the club.

“We had these donations from individual members of the club supporting the Coast Guard,” Durazo told Trade Only Today. “That’s all well and good, but we thought we could go the extra mile. We have a dinner every weekend at the club. What would be the big deal about inviting the Coast Guard to join us at the dinner table?”

But a yacht club member said that the dinner would be a Coast Guard ethics violation. Durazo confirmed that Coast Guard personnel cannot accept meals from yacht clubs under any circumstances — a rule that makes sense under typical circumstances.

“I can’t criticize the Coast Guard brass for having these ethics rules. I understand the idea behind them,” Durazo said. “The situation we’re facing with the Coast Guard is, we have families who are literally standing in line waiting for food donations to take home. These folks are struggling. Our position is the Coast Guard needs to review this rule and take into account that we’re in an unusual situation here.

“I’m glad we found out about the rule, because we’d like to change it,” Durazo added. “That’s all we’re looking to do.”

BoatUS is supporting legislation that would keep the Coast Guard from losing pay during shutdowns, and it is urging its membership to do the same. The “Pay Our Coast Guard Act” (Senate bill S.21) was introduced by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and a companion bill, “Pay Our Coast Guard Parity Act of 2019” (H.R. 367) was drafted in the House of Representatives by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.

BoatUS anticipated the shutdown when the Department of Homeland Security appropriations spending bill came up, and it was concerned because the Coast Guard is funded through DHS, said BoatUS government affairs manager David Kennedy.

“We knew this is where the fight would come up,” he said. “We’ve seen this before. There’s a bit of a game of chicken that happens.”

BoatUS said it made a $25,000 donation to Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, the agency’s “official relief society.” It’s the only organization that’s able to offer Coast Guard members no-interest loans, said BoatUS marketing director Scott Croft.

“It certainly puts you in much better shape going out into a storm knowing your family’s going to have heat tomorrow, and you have gas in your car so you can drive to work,” Croft said.

The call to action still applies, Kennedy said. “I can’t tell you what’s going to happen here in three weeks,” he said. “No matter what they do, it’s still important that these fine professionals get paid.”

Some Coast Guard members in California are still awaiting back paychecks, according to Durazo.

“The damage has been done,” he said. “They’ behind on their rent; they’re behind on their bills and behind on everything. These individuals have suffered a lot. And if we are to take the president at his word, then there will be another shutdown Feb. 15. It’s like that sailor expression — hope for the best and prepare for the worst. We ought to be able to help these people if they find themselves in the same situation a couple of weeks from now.”

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