The federal government will cover the costs of the Washington National Guard’s work performed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Trump on Sunday pledged full financial support for National Guard units in Washington, California and New York for COVID-19 prevention and response efforts. Those three states have the most confirmed cases of COVID-19.
In a memorandum, Trump directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency “to fund 100 percent of the emergency assistance activities associated with preventing, mitigating and responding to the threat to public health and safety posed by the virus that these States undertake using their National Guard forces.”
It came in response to a request by the states’ governors for federal support of their National Guard units. Each state and the District of Columbia has Army and Air National Guard units, which become reserve units of the U.S. Army and Air Force, respectively, during national emergencies and in wartime.
Gov. Jay Inslee on Feb. 29 activated the state’s National Guard.
National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Carter, who is also an Anacortes City Council member, said Monday the National Guard remains under the command of the governor, not the president, although Trump’s direction means a Guard member injured on the job would be covered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, rather than the state Department of Labor & Industries.
Anacortes is home to Alpha Company 3 of the 161st Infantry, which is part of the 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team. When needed, A/3-161 would likely help distribute food, set up shelters and testing sites, handle hazardous materials, and “make sure people are fed and cared for,” Carter said.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, about 2,050 National Guard soldiers and airmen in 27 states had been activated by their governors as of March 19 to support COVID-19 response efforts. Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel told reporters at a Pentagon briefing that Guard members in those states are helping to distribute food, deliver several hundred thousand swabs for test kits, and collecting samples from drive-through testing sites.
“We remain flexible and committed for whatever mission we may be called to do,” Lengyel said, adding that the governors of each state “have the flexibility to use the Guard in ways they deem most fit and productive.”