National Guard deployments related to ongoing pandemic relief efforts will again be reimbursed fully by the federal government under a new executive order signed by President Joe Biden on Thursday.
The move affects the ongoing missions of almost 23,000 guard troops in all 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia. Biden also extended the funding coverage by six more months, until Sept. 30.
So far, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has reimbursed states nearly $3 billion in costs related to the National Guard missions, dating back to March 2020. When those missions started, President Donald Trump ordered 100-percent reimbursement of those costs.
But that changed last summer, when the White House changed most state missions to a 75-percent reimbursement agreement.
The White House authorized the missions to continue until Dec. 31 after governors asked for more help.
That cost sharing between state and federal officials is typical of most short-term Guard missions, but has caused concerns among state officials as the pandemic missions have dragged on for months. Guardsmen have performed a range of logistics and support duties, to include coronavirus testing, temporary hospital construction and supply distribution.
The new executive order states that the full federal funding support is needed to “protect and support our families, schools, and businesses, and to assist state, local, tribal, and territorial governments to do the same.”
It does not mandate the Guard missions last until this fall, but simplifies federal response if the pandemic needs linger until then. White House officials said they will also work to speed up reimbursement to states and local governments to ensure uninterrupted continuation of that work.
The order was one of 10 signed by Biden on Thursday related to federal pandemic response efforts. Other initiatives included requiring masks on federal property and public transportation, including aircraft.
Brian Sicknick was a former staff sergeant with the New Jersey Air National Guard and deployed overseas during his time in the military.
More than 400,000 Americans have died from complications related to coronavirus in the last 11 months. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that about one in every 14 Americans has contracted the virus.
According to National Guard officials, more than 92,000 guardsmen — about 21 percent of the entire force — are currently participating in homeland and overseas missions. That includes about Guard troops deployed to Washington in advance of the inauguration to provide security.
About 120,000 Guard members were mobilized last summer, a record high for the force.