Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of 125 Members of Congress in a letter to President Donald Trump, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor calling on the administration to ensure National Guard personnel who are serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 response efforts receive the federal benefits they have earned.
“Thousands of National Guard servicemembers have been providing invaluable support for testing civilians and Guard personnel, logistics and warehouse distribution, planning for Emergency Operations Centers, homelessness outreach, and much more,” wrote the lawmakers. “…National Guard servicemembers have been supporting state efforts in high threat and high risk areas, namely, medical support to prisons; frontline testing at hot spots and critical infrastructure locations; supporting tracing operations; and providing direct care to COVID-19 positive citizens, including at care facilities like Veterans Living Centers and homeless populations.”
In the letter, the lawmakers proposed recommendations for addressing concerns related to the National Guard’s federal status, leave, health care, and GI Bill and retirement benefits. Addressing reports that National Guard personnel service may be stopped at 89 days preventing them from receiving full benefits, the members “encourage [the administration] to be inclusive of pandemic response affiliated military service to ensure that National Guard personnel are not being inappropriately prevented from accessing the benefits earned by their service.”
They continued, “…it is critical to ensure that all National Guard personnel are taken care of during this crisis and after, recognizing that the threat of COVID-19 will not immediately go away and the National Guard is likely to be called on again in the future... We are proud of [their] incredible contributions.”
In addition to Senator Collins, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
The text of the letter is available HERE.