Community responds to local shutdown impacts

Some 35 enlisted officers of the U.S. Coast Guard Cortez and six employees at the DeSoto National Memorial are going without pay — at least for the time being.

The federal government shuttered nonessential services and furloughed about 800,000 employees Dec. 22, 2018.

How to help
Local businessman Barry Grooms launched a Facebook-based fundraiser to assist the personnel at the U.S. Coast Guard Station Cortez.
Grooms is gathering gift cards and contributions for the Chief Petty Officer Association. He said 100 percent of donations will go to the help Coast Guard personnel.
As of noon Jan. 21, Grooms had raised $7,800 of his $10,000 goal.
To find the fundraiser on Facebook, search for “Coast Guard Station Cortez Barry Grooms.”
Also, Cortez waterfront businesses are assisting, including A.P. Bell Fish Co., Star Fish Co., and Tide Tables, which are collecting gas and grocery store gift cards for the Station Cortez crew.
People interested in donating to Desoto National Memorial staff can email
The Islander is accepting gift cards for the cause at the office, 3218 E. Bay Drive, Holmes Beach.

As the nation entered the second month of the shutdown, President Donald Trump signed legislation Jan. 16 guaranteeing some workers would be paid after the shutdown.

The local Coast Guard and national park employees last received paychecks Jan. 1.

And some islanders, including Tom and Lois Huntington of Holmes Beach, want to help the Coast Guard employees pay expenses, including mortgage and car loans, utility bills and food tabs.

Lois Huntington said, “If you have a Mayday” situation, “they won’t hesitate to rescue you.”

USCG Chief Zachary Gray said Jan. 16 he is trying to be “as proactive as possible” to help 35 enlisted officers at the Cortez station.

The officers’ “primary missions” include search and rescue, law enforcement, waterways management and environmental responses, according to Gray.

Considered essential because they perform emergency services to protect human life or property, the officers must work without pay in the shutdown.

Gray aid he’s funneling most contributions through the Chief Petty Officers Association, a nonprofit support group for the Coast Guard, to ensure the distributed to workers in the region is fair.

Huntington said she would support a more localized effort, such as a GoFundMe page, to raise money for “our own,” referring to those serving the Coast Guard in Cortez.

The for-profit crowd funding platform allows people to raise money for causes and events.

Meanwhile, Dan Stephens, a National Park Service ranger, said he and superintendent Nathan Souder are trading duties as the “essential” worker to check the park daily for vandalism and other issues.

While the memorial trails remain open, visitor facilities, exhibits and programs are discontinued due to the shutdown.

But it’s business as usual for the federally funded Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, which employs six staff members who work to protect the waters of Sarasota Bay in Cortez, on Anna Maria Island and southward.

For the fiscal year beginning October 2018, the SBEP was allocated $873,000 from federal coffers and $296,000 from local governments.

The 2018-19 budget also includes $764,594 in reserves.

“Thankfully, we were fortunate that our program funding is funded the way it is,” said Darcy Young, SBEP director of planning and communication.