President Donald Trump has approved funding requests from Hawaii and most other states to continue National Guard assistance with COVID-19 through March 31.
The Hawaii National Guard, among other duties, is expected to be needed to help support COVID-19 vaccination distribution.
The funding would cover 800 soldiers and airmen, and the state has the ability to request additional funding for up to 1,300 soldiers and airmen, Gov. David Ige’s office said Thursday.
The governor’s office said it costs approximately $8.5 million per month to fund National Guard emergency assistance activities associated with preventing, mitigating, and responding to the threat of the COVID-19 virus.
Under Trump’s continued funding plan, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will fund 75 percent of the cost, with the state funding 25 percent – or about $2 million per month.
President-elect Joe Biden said he will fully fund the National Guard’s coronavirus work — including the 25% state cost share, Politico reported. The current round of funding was set to expire at the end of the year.
Trump said in a memo Thursday that activated National Guard forces around the country “have provided critical support to governors” in the COVID-19 fight and states “will need assistance in fighting hot spots as they emerge.”
Hawaii is among 47 states and the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to receive the funding extension, according to Ige’s office.
“The president’s approval of this funding extension will enable the Hawaii National Guard to continue to provide much needed assistance as we respond to this nationwide public health crisis and continue our effort to protect our communities, save lives and minimize human suffering,” Ige said in a release.
The four members of Hawaii’s Democratic congressional delegation said in a letter to Trump on Nov. 25 that funding through March 31 “is critical to the public health and safety of Hawaii.”
“We also anticipate that the Hawaii National Guard will be instrumental in supporting the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to the public,” wrote U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie K. Hirono and U.S. Reps. Ed Case and Tulsi Gabbard.
The delegation also urged Trump to restore a 100% federal cost share for the National Guard coronavirus missions.
The Hawaii National Guard’s citizen soldiers and airmen are performing missions such as contact tracing, working on mobile swab teams, health education for at-risk populations, screening, food and medical supply distribution and more, Ige’s office said.