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Majority of States Ask for T32 Extension for COVID-19 Missions

Washington Report

At least 35 states and territories have asked the White House to extend the authority to use the National Guard under federal Title 32 for COVID-19 missions beyond the current Aug. 21 deadline. 

The authority under section 502(f) of federal Title 32 provides federal pay and benefits while keeping Guardsmen under state control. 

President Trump first provided the authority to California, New York and Washington state March 22. Eventually, he authorized 45 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia to use Guard soldiers and airmen for COVID-19 under Title 32. 

At the peak of the response, nearly 50,000 Guardsmen were serving on missions related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Currently, just under 30,000 Guardsmen are on such missions, but that number could increase as cases increase in the South and West. 

Without federal support, leaders in several states have said they lack the resources to continue using the Guard on a large scale. In addition, Guardsmen on duty would also no longer receive medical coverage. They would also not be able to qualify for federal education and retirement benefits.

In a letter to President Trump, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said there is much more work to be done to respond to and recover from the ongoing crisis.

“The Michigan National Guard is a crucial part of the state’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Guard will be vital to our ongoing recovery as well,” she said.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, another Democrat, has also requested an extension.

“The Connecticut National Guard has demonstrated that its ability to respond is constant, and their unwavering response is a big reason why we have been able to significantly bend the curve from the initial outbreak,” he said. “Not only are they providing state government with needed support, but they regularly partner with local and federal agencies to help protect our communities.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, the Republican co-chair of the National Governors Association, said yesterday that his organization strongly supports the extension. 

“The National Guard remains a critical part of our public health response,” he tweeted.

NGAUS also back extension of the Title 32 mission. In addition, the association continues to work with Congress to ensure Guardsmen on coronavirus-related missions have transitional health care once their missions end.

Appeals by the governors, members of Congress and NGAUS prompted the president to extend the Title 32 authorization two times previously.