Stacy Boone started taking on more clients when it started to look like the partial government shutdown would engulf the Coast Guard.
A hairstylist, Boone is married to an active duty Coast Guard member who has served for nearly 14 years. Her income has been a supplement to his, until now.
As many as 42,000 active duty Coast Guard members will miss their first paycheck Tuesday, the latest casualty in the shutdown. Bills in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate seek to restore pay for active duty, reservists, civilians and contractors and have received bipartisan support.
Boone's family is among at least 3,700 active duty Coast Guard members and families in Hampton Roads. The service is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which lost funding in the shutdown though many of its federal employees continue to work without pay. Last week, the Coast Guard helped when a coal ship ran aground off Virginia Beach.
"I think this whole thing is bringing to light that the Coast Guard is a very important branch," Boone said. "We are necessary."
Lack of action in Washington has spurred Boone, who has four young children, including two-year-old triplets, to work that much harder. Boone's mortgage company waived late fees and took the family off of automatic payments. USAA forgave the family one of their car payments for the month, which will instead be tacked on at the end, Boone said. She was less thrilled when the company tried to sell her on an interest-bearing loan, she said. The family also scaled back for Christmas and cut their one weekly night dining out at a restaurant.
"If we don't have to go somewhere, we save our gas," she said.
Local commands have also been supportive and members are looking out for each other, Boone said. Her husband's hours have been scaled back. Others aren't so lucky.
"There's still guys that are out on ships in the middle of the ocean right now," she said. "They're not getting paid but they're still away from their families. At least my husband gets to come home an extra day next week."
The longer the shutdown stretches, the more it may hurt local Coast Guard families. Boone said she is thankful that her family saved enough to cover Tricare copayments for her kids' speech therapy.
"Of course, one paycheck is a while," she said. "Anything more than that is just a lifetime."
Despite the shutdown’s impact on some in the region, it could be far more widespread if Hampton Roads weren’t more reliant on military spending. The Department of Defense, which is funded and operating, is insulating the region. The region has more than 84,000 active duty military and nearly 58,000 federal workers, but most of those individuals are employed by the Defense Department, too.
As a percentage of economic activity, the region is faring better than other metro areas during the shutdown including Washington, D.C., said Old Dominion University economist Robert McNab. That’s good news at a macro point of view, “but just a tragedy on the individual level.”
Bill Windhorst relies on a retirement check he receives from his Marine Corps service to help to cover his mortgage. If the shutdown continues, he expects to have to take money out of a government savings plan. It’s the type of plan where the government matches money he puts in. He would incur a penalty for withdrawing funds, he said.
“I’ve just got to watch everything,” Windhorst, who is now a civilian worker for the Coast Guard, said. “If it lasts three more weeks I’m definitely going to be in a hurt locker.”
Windhorst, 54, last worked Dec. 21 at his job at the Coast Guard Air Station in Elizabeth City where he’s the program manager for Aircraft Weight and Balance. He’s one of two in the Coast Guard who checks to make sure the department’s aircraft are within their weight limit and have the correct center of gravity. A contractor who works alongside him and whose position is already paid for has been reporting to work, he said.
The Coast Guard faced embarrassment last week when The Washington Post made light of a tip sheet found on a Coast Guard employee assistance web site. Its tips ranged from hosting a yard sale to finding an additional job, and even substituting paying for movies and magazines for a visit to the library. The list was later removed.
Boone called the tips insulting and not realistic for everyone. Who wants a pile of her "junk," she asked. Still, she's heard from some friends whose active-duty husbands are considering picking up income by driving for Uber and Lyft.
A lot of members are in disbelief they won’t be getting paid, said Harold Price, deputy commanding officer of the Coast Guard's Health, Safety and Work-Life program.
While some veteran Coast Guard members expressed concerns about the shutdown more directly hurting junior members, Price said there is worry across the board. Younger members might live paycheck-to-paycheck, but those more senior could have other financial struggles, too.
The shutdown may have a dampening effect beyond just financial pains, Price said. Departments like the TSA, Border Patrol and Coast Guard are entrusted with protecting our skies, border ports of entry and seas.
“These are the people not being paid,” Price said. “That kills morale in the workforce.”
In a military-heavy region like Hampton Roads, Boone has been heartened to see an outpouring of support from local businesses and organizations willing to help.
"This stinks but it's nice to know that we're all together," she said. "It also stinks to know that we're being used as this bargaining chip."
Staff Writer Kimberly Pierceall contributed to this report.