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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Bill filed to ensure Coast Guard members are paid during gov’t shutdowns

At a congressional hearing this week, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón highlighted the importance of the U.S. Coast Guard in maritime surveillance and drug interdiction off the coast of Puerto Rico.

By The Star Staff

U.S. Rep. Hillary Scholten (D-Mich.) and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón have introduced HR 2693, the Pay Parity Act for Our Coast Guard of 2023, a bipartisan bill aimed at ensuring that the U.S. Coast Guard is compensated for work it does during government shutdowns.

“This bill would ensure that our Coast Guard men and women receive the same financial security that the rest of our Armed Forces already have,” Scholten said Wednesday in a written statement. “Two-thirds of service members report that job security and stability had a large or very large influence on their decision to join the military. At a time when recruitment is near an all-time low for the Coast Guard, we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to ensure they are placed on a level playing field.”

“In Puerto Rico and the rest of the nation, the Coast Guard plays a vital role in protecting our maritime borders against transnational criminal threats and smugglers, assisting with disaster response and safeguarding our maritime transportation system,” González Colón added. “Congress must respond accordingly and support the men and women of the Coast Guard as they carry out an increasing number of missions.”

The resident commissioner, a national Republican, noted that the act “would provide up to two weeks of pay for Coast Guard personnel during any period in appropriations under which the Department of Defense has been funded, but not the Department of Homeland Security.”

“While we must do everything in our power to avoid such a scenario, I believe this bill could provide some certainty and stability to our Coast Guard members in the event of a funding lapse,” González Colón said.

On Tuesday, the Coast Guard and Marine Transportation Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a public hearing to discuss the Coast Guard’s budget for fiscal year 2024. In her question time, the resident commissioner, a member of the subcommittee, highlighted the importance of the Coast Guard in maritime surveillance and drug interdiction off the coast of Puerto Rico and advocated for resources for the armed forces branch.

She emphasized the leading role of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in combating illicit practices in the Caribbean, preventing tons of cocaine and other drugs, for example, from reaching the contiguous United States.

“We need to ensure the robust presence of the Coast Guard and federal law enforcement in the region,” González Colón said.

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