May 20, 2020

Duckworth Introduces Legislation to Make Sure National Guard Troops Activated In Response to COVID-19 Receive Full Benefits During the Public Health Emergency


[WASHINGTON, DC] – Combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, today 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. Her 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 percent of the costs of this activation. As it currently stands, states have to continue requesting support to make sure there isn’t a lapse in authorities or federal funding for the troops on the frontline of this crisis. While the Trump Administration gave an extension, it cynically chose a peculiar date that was later revealed to result in a hard deployment stop at 89 days for thousands of National Guard members—one day short of the 90-day threshold to receive additional federal benefits, like access to Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

“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 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 co-sponsored 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), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 public health crisis, Duckworth has led a number of efforts related to this issue. In March, Duckworth wrote to Secretary Esper urging the Department of Defense to take proactive steps to ensure readiness of National Guard and Reserve units to support local civilian authorities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Later in March, she sent a letter to President Trump requesting that all National Guard troops activated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic be transitioned to Title 32 authority. In April, she requested the Administration extend the Title 32 authority for all National Guard troops activated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic for at least 180 days. In May, Duckworth again wrote to President Trump expressing concern that his order to extend National Guard Title 32 authority for only 89 days in response to COVID-19 precludes troops from qualifying for additional federal benefits they would normally be granted if Title 32 was extended for 90 days or more.