May 21, 2020

Wyden Introduces Bill to Make Sure National Guard Troops Responding to COVID-19 Receive Full Benefits Throughout Public Health Crisis

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said today he has joined combat veteran U.S. Sen Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., to introduce a bill 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 brave members of the National Guard risking their lives on the frontlines of the COVID-19 health crisis deserve the utmost support from the federal government,” Wyden said. “This bill would grant the Oregon Guard the predictability it's asking for and prevent the Trump administration from nickel-and-diming Guard members out of hard-earned benefits.”

The National Guard COVID-19 Response Stability Act would extend Title 32 authority for all Guardsmen activated in response to the crisis until the end of the declared public health emergency. By doing so, the federal government would continue covering 100 percent of the costs of this activation. As it currently stands, states must 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 chose a date that results 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.

Specifically, this bill 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 public health emergency for COVID-19, plus an additional 30 days to allow the Guard to shift away from Title 32 operations. Most recently, the public health emergency declaration was renewed on April 26, 2020 for a period of 90 days.

Along with Wyden and Duckworth, this bill was co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Gary Peters, D-Mich., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Mark Warner, D-Va., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.