Responding to requests from numerous governors, President Donald Trump has extended the federal deployment of the National Guard to help states respond to the coronavirus. However, as part of the extension, states will have to start covering 25% of the cost of the deployments.
About 25,000 members of the National Guard serving in the states will continue to receive federal pay and benefits while performing a variety of essential tasks, including building temporary hospitals, operating test sites and assisting with food distribution. But states will have to cover some of the tab from August 22 until December 31, when the extension ends.
While the governors are no doubt relieved by the extension, some state and federal officials are concerned about the reduced funding and cost-sharing requirement, coming as it does during an economic crisis that has caused state tax collections to plunge. “States are being asked to bear significant costs while simultaneously facing an historic decline in revenues,” Casey Katims, director of federal affairs for the state of Washington, told Politico. “It is incumbent on Congress to deliver sorely needed resources to state and local governments on the front lines of this crisis.”
Officials also complained about the last-minute timing of the White House decision. In the absence of an announcement last week, some National Guard troops had already started heading back to their bases in preparation for a two-week quarantine before returning home. Now, it could take several weeks to reestablish their missions, and in the meantime, the essential services they provide may be available only on a limited basis.