May 21, 2020

Van Hollen, Duckworth Introduce Legislation to Ensure National Guard Troops Activated In Response to COVID-19 Get the Benefits They Earned During the Public Health Emergency

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), along with 17 of their Senate colleagues, introduced the National Guard COVID-19 Response Stability Act to ensure that all National Guard troops activated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic receive additional benefits and provide states with greater certainty.

The Senators’ legislation would extend Title 32 authority for all troops activated in response to the crisis until the end of the public health emergency (PHE). By doing so, the federal government would continue covering 100% of the costs of this activation. Currently, states must continue requesting support to ensure there isn’t a lapse in authorities or federal funding for these frontline troops. 

The Trump Administration chose a particular date for an extension, later revealed to mean a hard deployment stop at 89 days for thousands of National Guard members – just one day short of the 90-day threshold to receive additional federal benefits, like access to Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

“Our National Guard members have risked their lives serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis and play a key role in Maryland’s response. It is downright shameful that the Trump Administration would go out of its way to prevent them from receiving the benefits they’re owed. These men and women deserve better,” said Senator Van Hollen. “I’m proud to join Senator Duckworth in introducing this legislation to support our National Guard members and ease some of the financial uncertainty that Maryland and other state governments are experiencing.”

“The Trump Administration’s repeated attempts to nickel and dime members of the National Guard would be wrong under any circumstance, but it is particularly offensive when these troops are responding to a deadly COVID-19 pandemic that has already killed more than 90,000 Americans,” said Senator Duckworth. “This legislation would ensure that all National Guard troops activated to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic are provided with the full benefits they’ve earned and will give states much-needed certainty during these uncertain times.”

Specifically, the National Guard COVID-19 Response Stability Act would amend federal law to authorize state governors to order members of the National Guard to active duty in connection with COVID-19 response with full federal benefits. This enhanced authority would be in place through the end of the Trump Administration’s declared PHE for COVID-19, plus an additional 30 days to allow the Guard to shift away from Title 32 operations. Most recently, the PHE declaration was renewed on April 26, 2020 for a period of 90 days.

This legislation was cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Gary Peters (D-MI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).