Bristol duo organizes aid for Coast Guard during shutdown

BRISTOL — Because of a partial shutdown of the federal government, more than 43,000 members of the United States Coast Guard are serving without pay.
Bristol residents Kerrin and Lisa Hoff are hoping to help some of them.
“Today is the first day Coast Guard members and their dependents did not receive a paycheck,” Kerrin wrote in a Jan. 15 Facebook post. “Coast Guard Station Burlington does not have on-base housing for its service members and their families, necessitating off-base rental housing, which members are responsible for paying through their paychecks and housing allowances that would have been issued to them through their paychecks. Basic necessities such as food, commuting costs and childcare expenses are also the individuals’ responsibility.”
The Hoffs have begun collecting donations for the 31 members of the Coast Guard (USCG) stationed on Lake Champlain — gas cards, grocery gift cards, food items and diapers and wipes.
The couple has deep connections with the USCG. Master Chief Petty Officer Lisa Hoff served on active duty for 10 years and has served in the reserves for the last 20. Kerrin Hoff served on active duty from 1988 to 1992 in South Portland, Maine. He is also a member of the Bristol Fire Department.
Because the Hoffs each work full-time jobs outside the USCG, they have not been financially affected by the shutdown, but it felt important to try to reach out and help their community, Kerrin said.
“I wanted to get ahead of any financial crisis if this (shutdown) goes longer,” he told the Independent.
In response to Kerrin’s posts on Facebook and Bristol’s Front Porch Forum donations have begun trickling in.
“We’ve gotten some gas cards and grocery gift cards and other things,” he said.
During her next reserve training weekend in Boston, MCPO Hoff also plans to collect and bring home items from an emergency food pantry that’s been set up in the USCG Boston sector. She will distributed them to Coast Guard members working at the Burlington USCG station.
The USCG was the only branch of the military to lose its funding during the shutdown, which has now entered its fifth week. Funding for the Department of Defense, which oversees the other four branches, was finalized before the shutdown, but that was not the case for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Coast Guard.
“To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time in our nation’s history that service members in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriations,” said Admiral Karl L. Schultz, commandant of the USCG, in a statement released Jan. 15.
Schultz added that assistance would be available to service members through Coast Guard Mutual Assistance and the American Red Cross.
An emergency page on the Guard’s website, which is otherwise inactive during the shutdown, offered tips and documents, including a printable letter to creditors, signed by Rear Admiral William G. Kelly, assistant commandant for human resources.
“To whom it may concern,” Kelly wrote. “We appreciate your organization’s understanding and flexibility in working with Coast Guard members who request forbearance on their obligations until this situation is resolved.”
At the heart of the dispute between President Trump and the U.S. Congress is funding for a proposed wall at the U.S. border with Mexico.
In early January President Trump threatened that the shutdown — which is the longest shutdown in U.S. history — would continue for months, or even years, if Congress did not provide adequate funding to build the border wall.
In his online posts Kerrin Hoff explained why he thought supporting the unpaid members of the USCG was worth it. He pointed out that on the average day, the U.S. Coast Guard conducts 109 search and rescue missions, protects $2.8 million in property, seizes illegal drugs with a street value of $9.5 million and saves 10 lives, among many other things (see chart).
“This,” Hoff concluded, “is a wall that works!”
For more information about how to help local members of the Coast Guard, email Kerrin Hoff at [email protected].
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].
U.S. Coast Guard at Work
Across the country on an average day, the Coast Guard:
•  Conducts 109 search and rescue cases.
•  Saves 10 lives.
•  Assists 192 people in distress.
•  Protects $2.8 million in property.
•  Seizes 169 pounds of marijuana and 306 pounds of cocaine with a street value of $9.5 million.
•  Processes 238 mariner licenses and documents.
•  Investigates six vessel casualties involving collisions or groundings.
•  Has underway small boats for 396 sorties/missions.
•  Flies 164 aircraft missions logging 324 hours.
•  Boards 144 vessels of law-enforcement interest.
•  Interdicts and rescues 14 illegal immigrants at sea.
•  Opens eight new cases for marine violation of federal statutes.
•  Boards 100 large vessels for port safety checks.
•  Conducts 20 commercial fishing vessel safety exams.
•  Responds to 20 oil or hazardous chemical spills totaling 2,800 gallons.
•  Services 135 aids to navigation.
•  Monitors the transit of 2,509 commercial ships through U.S. ports.
•  Conducts 377 vessel safety checks.
•  Teaches boating safety courses to 550 boaters.

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