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'Priorities': Coast Guard Families Rethink Spending During Government Shutdown

Coast Guard families are enduring hardships as active duty personnel and civilian employees live without pay during the government shutdown.

It’s the only branch of the military that’s unfunded at the moment.

Mike Brudzinski lives in navy housing on the submarine base in Groton. He’s a stay-at-home Coast Guard dad. His mission is to take care of his daughter Leila. She loves McDonald’s and she loves to play with a toy car she got from there.

But the last time she wanted McDonald’s, her parents decided against it. And last week, her father decided not to take her older brother Lucas to go see Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.

“We’d been looking forward to it, but it’s just priorities,” Brudzinski said. “I’d rather save that $10 to go buy some milk and eggs and stuff like that.”

Brudzinski’s wife Miranda is in the Coast Guard -- petty officer second-class. She works in the legal department at the Coast Guard Academy, but during the shutdown, she’s doing it without pay.

Credit Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio
Connecticut Public Radio
Leila Brudzinski, 3, gets taken care of during the day by her father while her mother works during the day in the legal department at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

In a stressful time, the Brudzinskis are putting on a brave face for their kids.

“They do see that we’re stressed out, that we’re making phone calls to try to push back payment deadlines, worry about late fees,” Brudzinski said.

There are 500 active-duty Coast Guard members stationed in Connecticut. In addition, there are 400 faculty and staff and up to 1,200 cadets at the Coast Guard Academy in New London.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said legislative efforts are underway to attempt to restore their pay.

“It would make sure that the Coast Guard pay is immune to interruptions in the same capacity as other members of the armed services,” DeLauro said. “It takes their paychecks, if you will, out of the range of the shutdown.”

In the meantime, DeLauro is urging Coast Guard families to reach out for financial help to the Connecticut Military Relief fund, administered by the state.

DeLauro called the shutdown “performance theater” that President Trump is staging for conservative talk radio.

Mike Brudzinski wants the shutdown to end. He said he’s even taken to social media to ask the general public to urge lawmakers to do something.

His family has two car payments due soon but fortunately for him, those creditors are giving the family a pass. Others haven’t been so understanding. His wife is supposed to be reimbursed whenever the shutdown’s finished, but that does nothing for them now.

“We have credit card bills,” Brudzinski said. “We’ve got gas to get to and from work, to get to and from school, to get to and from the grocery store. I can’t be like, ‘Here’s my promise of money 30-40 days from now’. We’re kind of in a bind right now.”

Miranda Brudzinski was supposed to get paid Tuesday, but barring a last-minute change, no money is coming.

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.
Frankie Graziano is the host of The Wheelhouse, focusing on how local and national politics impact the people of Connecticut.

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