Peters, Stabenow Introduce Legislation to Ensure National Guard Troops Activated In Response to COVID-19 Receive Full Benefits During the Public Health Emergency

DETROIT, MI – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI) and Debbie Stabenow (MI) helped introduce legislation to ensure that all National Guard troops activated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic receive benefits they’ve earned and provide states with greater certainty. The National Guard COVID-19 Response Stability Act would extend Title 32 authority for all troops activated in response to the crisis until the end of the 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 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, according to recent reporting, members of the National Guard who were deployed in late March to respond to the pandemic would face a “hard stop” on mobilizations effective June 24th. This would be one day short of the 90-day threshold for these Guard personnel to receive additional federal benefits, like early retirement and education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI bill. Currently, 991 Michigan guardsmen are mobilized in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. The State of Michigan will also lose key federal funding and be forced to transfer these guardsmen to state funds, if they are still needed.

“National Guard personnel in Michigan are playing a critical role in supporting COVID-19 response efforts and have disrupted their lives and risked exposing themselves to the virus,” said Peters, a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It’s outrageous the Administration may prematurely end their mobilizations in an effort to deny them benefits. That’s why I’ve pressed the President not to do so and also helped introduce legislation that would ensure these Guardsmen activated to respond to this pandemic are provided the benefits they have earned and give states much-needed certainty during this crisis.” 

“Nearly 1,000 Michigan National Guard members responding to the COVID-19 crisis will be denied benefits because this administration is ending their mobilization prematurely. These men and women have stood on the front lines of this crisis and put their lives on the line and we need to stand by them,” said Senator Stabenow.

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 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.

Peters called on the President in a letter Wednesday not to prematurely end these mobilizations, highlighting how Guard personnel have been on full-time orders supporting a range of high-risk tasks, including decontaminating nursing homes, setting up field hospitals, COVID-19 testing, logistics and warehouse distribution, emergency planning, and more. He also stressed that states remain dependent on the support of National Guard personnel and there are no indications these needs will disappear by June 24th. He also wrote in his letter to the President that purposefully withholding benefits the guardsmen have earned would be an insult and harm morale, recruiting, and retention within the National Guard.