Leahy To Lead Senators On Bill To Restore National Guard Coronavirus Funding At 100 Percent

(THURSDAY, Aug. 27, 2020) -- Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), announced Thursday that he will introduce a bill with Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) to restore full federal funding for the National Guard’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On August 3, in the midst of a spike in newly reported coronavirus cases, the President signed a Presidential Memorandum terminating the 100 percent federal cost share with the National Guard that had been in effect since March for responding to coronavirus.  The cost-share provides federal funding to pay the National Guard to carry out FEMA-approved missions to combat the pandemic.  Pursuant to the memorandum, beginning on August 21, most states and territories found the cost share reduced to 75 percent, despite the persisting need for vital Guard operations related to the pandemic, such as operating testing sites, supporting medical professionals, distributing food, and other activities supporting local communities.  At that time, Leahy led 33 other Senators in a letter to the President asking him to reverse those changes, which the administration has failed to do.  On Thursday, Leahy announced his intention to introduce legislation when the Senate returns to session in September to restore the 100 percent cost share for any National Guard entity responding to the pandemic with a mission validated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which approves missions for federal cost share.

Leahy said:  “Americans are hurting as this public health and economic crisis continues across the nation.  The men and women of the National Guard and other first responders are a bright spot as states take action in the absence of effective federal coordination.  It is the wrong time to cut back the federal resources that give governors flexibility to use these valuable citizen soldiers and airmen and women in serving their neighbors.”

Schumer said:  “It’s shameful that President Trump is again politicizing the frontline work of our National Guard. As the Trump administration failed to effectively respond to the pandemic, across the country Guard members answered the call to serve their community in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19.  Democrats will work just as hard as they do to ensure that all National Guard units receive the funding they need to continue fulfilling this important mission so we can defeat this evil disease.” 

Durbin said:  “The National Guard has been critical in implementing testing plans and supporting medical professionals during the COVID-19 crisis.  As flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic are projected to converge this winter, we need their support more than ever, but without full funding from the federal government, states are at risk of losing the National Guard’s help.  The federal government must pay the full cost of keeping guardsmen on the ground as states struggle with their own significant revenue loss.”

Duckworth said:  “National Guard troops have been serving as frontline workers since the beginning of this pandemic, working to help keep their communities and their nation safe.  Trump’s decision to slash the federal funding that supports the deployment of these troops is infuriating, yet unsurprising given his repeated efforts to ignore and move on from a deadly pandemic that is still killing nearly 1,000 Americans every day.  I’m proud to be partnering with Senator Leahy and my colleagues on this legislation that would fully restore this critical funding.”

Text of the bill is available HERE.

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