Merkley, Wyden Press White House To Restore Full Funding For National Guard’s COVID-19 Response

Merkley, Wyden Press White House To Restore Full Funding For National Guard’s COVID-19 Response

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden wrote to President Trump today asking him to restore full funding to states to cover the cost of the National Guard responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The senators were joined by 32 of their colleagues in seeking answers and a restoration of the lost funding. 

Since March, National Guard units in every state and territory have supported response to help Americans, from distributing much-needed food, to running remote testing locations, to standing up alternate medical care facilities. After initial reluctance, the White House authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reimburse states for the cost of those National Guard mobilizations. On Aug. 3, however, without warning or explanation, FEMA cut the reimbursement from 100% to 75% for all states and territories other than Texas and Florida.  After a press inquiry, a White House official said the two states were exempted because of a personal appeal from those states’ governors. Three additional states last Friday received a short-term additional federal match to reach full federal cost share until Oct. 1.

“Congress has demonstrated repeatedly that we understand 32 USC 502(f) to include the ability for the National Guard, under command of state and territory governors, to respond with Federal resources to disasters that endanger Americans,” the senators wrote. “This new determination to reduce the cost share comes at the worst possible time, as positive cases continue to rise, and food security and other basic needs increase due to the ongoing economic impact of the pandemic… We ask that you re-authorize one hundred percent cost share for all states and territories through at least December 31.”

The letter from the 34 Democratic senators follows:

Dear Mr. President:

We write to request you restore one hundred percent Federal cost share to all states and territories for use of the National Guard under Title 32 of U.S. Code for responding to coronavirus, which was terminated by your August 3 memorandum for all states and territories except Florida and Texas. The National Guard response has been critical within our states to supporting the health and well-being of millions of Americans. 

Congress has demonstrated repeatedly that we understand 32 USC 502(f) to include the ability for the National Guard, under command of state and territory governors, to respond with Federal resources to disasters that endanger Americans. Most recently, the CARES Act included funding specifically for COVID-19 response for the Army and Air National Guards, as requested by the Department of Defense. You determined to use reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency at one hundred percent cost share, and the resulting mission has lessened the negative impacts for Americans.

This new determination to reduce the cost share comes at the worst possible time, as positive cases continue to rise, and food security and other basic needs increase due to the ongoing economic impact of the pandemic. Further, by singling out Florida and Texas for a full cost share as other states face challenges of similar magnitude, the decision appears arbitrary and without justification. Exacerbating the arbitrary and capricious decision, the White House on August 7 extended a short term restoration for some states to a one hundred percent cost share through September 30.  This inequity among states is irrational.

We ask that you re-authorize one hundred percent cost share for all states and territories through at least December 31.