Government shutdown paused

CORTEZ – The 35 active duty men and women of the United States Coast Guard Station Cortez will get their next paycheck on Feb. 1, their first in a month.

President Donald Trump announced an agreement today to pause the federal government shutdown for three weeks until Feb. 15 while negotiations on a border wall continue. If a deal is not reached, the shutdown could resume.

He promised prompt payment of back pay for federal workers and thanked them for their “extraordinary devotion,” calling them “patriots.”

Trump instituted the shutdown on Dec. 22 to persuade Congress to fund a wall along the country’s border with Mexico.

On Saturday, Feb. 2 at 5 p.m., the Cortez Cultural Center, 11655 Cortez Road W., will host a concert and fundraiser for Coast Guard workers. Fiddler and mandolin player Soupy Davis will perform, and hot dogs and s’mores will be served from the fire pit. Attendees are encouraged to donate gas or gift cards, baby food or diapers.

While many federal workers went without two paychecks during the shutdown, Coast Guard Station Cortez received their Jan. 1 paychecks but missed their Jan. 15 checks, Officer in Charge Zach Gray said.

All hands were on deck at the station during the entire shutdown, he said.

“Everybody is here,” Gray said. “It’s a team. If I don’t have my whole team, I’m not able to perform search and rescue.”

Since the shutdown began, the station responded to 12 search and rescue cases, including a high-profile helicopter crash on Jan. 2 in the Gulf of Mexico off Anna Maria Island. A photographer was shooting video from the helicopter of a speeding powerboat below; three men were injured.

This Robinson R44 helicopter was recovered on Friday, Jan. 4 and transported to the Coquina Beach boat ramp. – Collin Schmidt | Submitted

Local businesses and organizations have been helping the Coast Guard workers through the Chief Petty Officer Association (CPOA). Gray is the Cortez representative for the Suncoast CPOA.

“I am extremely grateful,” Gray said. “It is remarkable how much they care about us.”

Among the many contributors are Star Fish Co., Tide Tables, A.P. Bell Fish Co., Swordfish Grill and Roser Memorial Community Church Food Pantry.

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