Guardsmen serving on the front lines of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will have 24 more days to accomplish their work.
President Donald Trump, by memo late Friday, extended the authorization for federal funds for Guardsmen through Title 32 Section 502(f) to June 24. That authorization had been set to expire at the end of this month, which would have led to many states pulling Guardsmen this week to allow for a 14-day quarantine and out-processing requirements.
Without the funding, many states were planning to scale back their use of the Guard. But Trump said the federal government would continue to provide 100% of the cost for approved missions.
The presidential memo said the extension was tied to the nation’s economic recovery. It comes after lawmakers and governors in several states and from both sides of the aisle advocated for more time to battle the COVID-19 outbreak.
Retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, the NGAUS president, says the governors, adjutants general, and the Guard soldiers and airmen on the front lines will welcome the extension.
“The mindset is always to complete the mission,” he said, “and it’s not yet complete.”
But he said it’s “curious” the extension runs only 24 days and ends in the middle of the week, instead of a full month, which is what many lawmakers and governors requested.
The date will prevent Guardsmen mobilized for COVID-19 from reaching a key eligibility milestone for some benefits.
“The first Guard soldiers and airmen went on Title 32 orders near the end of March,” he said. “The extension means they will be coming off orders just shy of 90 days, when they would become eligible for credit toward the early retirement program and the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
“Something very similar happened on those first orders," Robinson said. “At that time, federal authorities were limiting the duration of the orders to 30 days when TRICARE medical coverage required orders for at least 31 days.
“Fortunately, that changed when people became aware of the impact it would have on soldiers and airmen who are doing so much for this country in its time of need,” he added.
As of Monday, more than 46,400 Guardsmen are supporting the COVID-19 response at the direction of their governors. The vast majority were on federal Title 32 orders, with 44 states, three territories and the District of Columbia having been approved for use of federal Title 32 funds.