It has become the norm to see Coast Guard men and women, some in uniform, in the aisles of the pop-up food pantry at the Coast Guard Academy in New London.
While everyone has said they’re extraordinarily grateful for the community support, not receiving a paycheck has faded optimism and built anxiety as the shutdown lingers on.
“There’s a lot of hurt. We’ve come together but we’re going to forever feel this. This has been really hard,” said Petty Officer Second Class Crystal Walker, a yeoman with the U.S. Coast Guard.
Walker said she’s extremely grateful to have her Coast Guard family to lean on. But with it nearing week five of the partial government shutdown, that family is getting smaller.
“We’ve lost a lot of our Coast Guard civilians who have had to take other jobs,” Walker said.
Her paycheck helps support her husband and four children. He’s part of the Navy and receiving an income.
On day 33, there’s still no end in sight to the partial government shutdown. Across the nation Coast Guard families are still not receiving a paycheck.
“You can just see the morale, it’s going down. We’re going along with our jobs and doing the best we can, but you can see the hurt it is causing,” Walker said.
The Coast Guard is still out on missions. Just yesterday crews were breaking ice on the Connecticut River.
“We rely on the paycheck month to month. The fact that it’s not there, it puts a real gap there,” said Petty Officer Third Class Kameko Zayas-Bazan, also a Coast Guard yeoman.
She and her family live in military housing and the landlord has been understanding of the shutdown situation. But Zayas-Bazan said credit card companies and student loan payments have not been.
She has two young kids. Her husband works part-time.
“Now his is the only paycheck we have coming in,” Zayas-Bazan said.
“I’m starting to stay awake at night worrying about finances,” said Anna Griffiths, whose husband is in the Coast Guard.
She has a toddler and an infant at home and said she is considering taking on a part-time job, or that her husband possibly will.
Griffiths even told her parents not to spend the money to come visit since she had to borrow from them.
“It hits close to home,” Griffiths said. “It is home.”
Griffiths is so grateful for and frequents the pop-up pantry that when the shutdown is over, she said she wants to prioritize giving back to the community even more than she has in the past.
Other Coast Guardsmen have said the one positive from this situation is that it’s brought them even closer together as a Coast Guard family.
NBC Connecticut spoke with a Coast Guard wife who traveled about 70 minutes from Rhode Island, where her husband is stationed, to use the pop-up pantry during the shutdown.