Trump Administration Tells States to Pay for National Guard Support During Pandemic
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – A Trump administration memorandum shifting part of the cost to deploy National Guard members currently deployed for COVID-19 support duties could drain up to $17 million away from much needed social safety net programs such as food banks, rent support and unemployment insurance.
"Any support that we lose from the federal government increases the pressure on the state to divert funding from other critical needs," said Representative Sylvia Luke, Chair of the House Finance Committee. "Since we are facing over a billion-dollar shortfall in general funds in the current fiscal year, we will most likely have to spend CARES Act money we could be using for PPE, cleaning supplies, UI or other critical needs."
Under U.S. Code Title 32, which authorizes state governors to mobilize the National Guard, the federal government is currently paying for 100% of the cost of deploying guard members for COVID-19 related activities and response. In Hawaiʻi, these activities have included temperature screening at our airports, as well as at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center where the state Department of Labor has its unemployment insurance processing center, manpower for mass feeding events in all counties, PPE fit testing and education, swabbing teams in each county, and assisting with logistics and manpower at the Big Island facility storing inventory of PPE and cleaning supplies. The current authorization is set to expire on Aug. 21, 2020. After that, some states would have to pick up 25% of the cost.
President Trump is making exceptions for Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Minnesota, Texas, and Wyoming without any rationale. Based on Center for Disease Control data, Florid leads in the amount of cases in the last seven days and is fourth on the list of cases per 100,000 people. Texas is third on the list for cases in the last seven day, with 19 states reporting higher numbers than Arkansas, the next state that will continue to get 100% of funding.
"At a time when every state needs federal support to keep our communities safe and economies afloat, shifting this cost to the states is unconscionable," said Luke.
House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti stated, "the decision by President Trump to continue funding for selected states is unfair during a time when all states need support. Burdening state economies with this cost will strain relief efforts to support and reinforce the social safety net."
Currently, the Hawaiʻi Department of Defense is planning on diverting a portion of $40 million provided by the first CARES distribution to fund the Hawaii National Guard’s continued deployment. There are no general funds available to pay for this.