STONINGTON — The Coast Guard Foundation announced last week that it would provide an initial $250,000 in family support to Coast Guard families affected by the five-week government shutdown. President Donald Trump halted the shutdown on Friday, but a stopgap spending bill extends only until Feb. 15, and Trump said that "in 21 days, if no deal is done on border security, "it's off to the races!"

The foundation, a nonprofit group that provides education, support and relief to all Coast Guard members and their families, also said it had received a $100,000 grant from Walmart on Wednesday to provide assistance to Coast Guard families.

During the five-week shutdown, federal workers and service members of the U.S. Armed Forces were not paid for the first time in U.S. history — missing two paychecks.

“We are here to support the brave men and women of the United States Coast Guard, who continue to stand the watch during this challenging time,” said Susan Ludwig, president of the Coast Guard Foundation. “While these funds will not cover the $150 million it takes to fund the service's payroll, we can send our help to those who continue to put their lives on the line every day and serve our nation with pride.”

The foundation’s initial $250,000 commitment will provide $100 grants to Coast Guard families and the $100,00 grant from Walmart will help ensure the continuity of the program, Christopher McBriarty, digital communications manager at the foundation, said in an email Thursday.mer

“We are working with the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association to distribute these funds around the country,” he said “This gift from Walmart ensures more is on the way for our service members in need."

McBriarty also said the outpouring of support from the local area to members of the U.S. Coast Guard, which has included food and money drives, “has been truly heartwarming.”

“We're grateful to all who have rallied to support their local service members from Rhode Island, Connecticut, to all around the country,” he said.

In Stonington, Leanne Theodore, director of Human Services, who was reached by phone Wednesday, urged town residents in need, whether from the government shutdown or otherwise, to call her department for assistance in finding help.

“We can walk residents through the process for whatever services they may require,” she said. “We’re a good one-stop shop to coordinate services.”

She said her department was working to get the word out to all residents, specifically to people who have not contacted the department for social services needs before.

“Basically we don’t disqualify anyone because everyone’s situation is unique,” she said. “Our focus at Human Services is to put people back in a place of self-sufficiency, so a temporary need is a perfect fit for our programs because these individuals will be able to be back in a place of self-sufficiency once the government shutdown is over.”

She said her department was working to get the word out about the availability of assistance.

“A lot of times we hear from people that nobody wants to be in a situation where they’re asking for help, but we’re lucky to live in a town where social services are supported. We’re set up to deal with these situations and we’re ready to help anybody who comes in,” she said. “Residency is the only requirement because we’re funded by taxpayers’ dollars and we encourage people to reach out to us.”

For more information about the Coast Guard foundation, go to www.coastguardfoundation.orgTo reach Stonington Human Services, call 860-535-5015.

Hospitals are helping out

Local health care providers have stepped up to help furloughed workers and their families.

South County Hospital was serving free dinners on Tuesday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m  in its cafeteria. Military personnel, TSA employees, and other employees affected by the shutdown were eligible. Call 401-788-1448 for more information.

Yale New Haven Health System was waiving various payments at emergency departments, urgent care or walk-in centers. And upon request, any outstanding bills will be put on hold, extending for 30 days after the end of the shutdown.

Patients should call 855-547-4584, ext. 0 to be connected to a representative. If the bill comes from Northeast Medical Group, patients should call 833-288-4400, ext. 4.

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