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Manchin, Capito: Restore National Guard funding

CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s two U.S. senators have joined forces with Gov. Jim Justice in calling for federal funding to continue for the West Virginia National Guard’s response during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., wrote a letter to President Donald Trump Tuesday calling for the federal government to cover 100 percent of the funding for the National Guard.

Trump issued a memorandum last week requiring all states and territories except Florida and Texas to cover 25 percent of the costs for federal support of National Guard deployments for COVID-19 response starting Aug. 21. The memorandum extends Title 32 deployments through Dec. 31.

“Since being activated under Title 32 orders, the WVNG has played a pivotal role in the state’s response to the pandemic,” Capito wrote. “While I appreciate your decision to extend Title 32 order at 75 percent. I am imploring you to continue to cover the WVNG 100 percent as hardworking men and women of the Guard continue to assist West Virginians as they face these unprecedented times.”

State National Guard members across the country are operating under Title 32 deployments, which allow the National Guard to operate at full-time capacity for operational activities during emergencies and national disasters.

Title 32 allows the Secretary of Defense to provide federal funding to governors to use National Guard assets. Title 32 also provides benefits through the G.I. Bill, health care and workers’ compensation to guard members.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., joined 34 senators in writing an open letter to Trump calling for continued full funding for National Guard deployments. The senators were critical of Trump for exempting Texas and Florida from the 25 percent funding requirement.

“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,” Manchin and the senators wrote. “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.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Title 32 federal funding pays for as much as $9 million per 1,000 guard members. States receive 75 percent of their funding through a Federal Emergency Management Agency Public Assistance. States with 2 percent of their guard members deployed can receive a waiver for the remaining 25 percent. The federal C.A.R.E.S. Act also appropriated $1.4 billion for guard deployments for the pandemic.

In West Virginia, the National Guard estimates that a 25 percent share to fund the Title 32 deployment could cost the state more than $7.26 million through the rest of the calendar year. There are more than 400 guard members on active duty in the state serving in a multitude of roles as of Wednesday with more than 700 guard members deployed during the spring.

State officials said last week that the state will pay the 25 percent match if it has to. Justice said he spoke last week with Department of Defense Secretary Mark Esper about fully funding the West Virginia National Guard. The adjutant general for the West Virginia National Guard, Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, said Monday that the COVID-19 pandemic is the longest emergency deployment for the guard.

“This is day 150,” Hoyer said. “I’ve been in the guard for 39 and a half years and have responded to a number of emergencies. This is the longest operational period for a state emergency response that I’ve seen in those 39 years-plus of service.”

(Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)

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