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Trump OKs Whitmer's request for National Guard humanitarian help

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

President Donald Trump on Monday granted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s request for up to 3,000 members of the Michigan Army and Air National Guard to perform humanitarian missions across the state during the COVID-19 crisis.

The state National Guard, under Whitmer’s command, will perform tasks such as helping run mobile screening facilities, distributing food and medical supplies, ensuring resiliency of supply lines, disinfecting public spaces and supporting public safety when required, officials said.

“This is good news for Michiganders everywhere who are worried about COVID-19's impact on their community,” the governor said in a statement. “Now, our dedicated National Guardsmen and women can help ensure access to meals for families who need them or medical supplies for our health care professionals.

"They’ll help us get Michiganders tested and keep our public places clean. I’m happy that the federal government granted this request, and will continue to work closely with them as we slow the spread of COVID-19 together.” 

Whitmer sent a letter Monday to U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper outlining how Michigan meets required criteria for approval to use Title 32, United States Code, section 502, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, her office said.

“The Michigan National Guard is ready and eager to assist Governor Whitmer as she works to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our state,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

“Our number one priority is protecting Michigan families from harm, and the federal government’s action today will help us do just that. We look forward to working closely with the governor to ensure our families are protected during this crisis.”  

Whitmer on March 18 formally requested authority from Trump to expand use of the National Guard in Michigan by calling up members to aid in the humanitarian response to the coronavirus outbreak on the federal dime.

The governor could have called up the guard before but the state would assume all costs, such as when she recently activated the Army National Guard to assist in assembling and loading personal protective gear for delivery to local public health departments. 

The Title 32 authority grants Whitmer more operational control and places the National Guard members into the federal pay and benefits system, ensuring they receive timely pay through the Pentagon and opens up more federal benefits, experts say. The Pentagon would be reimbursed the cost by federal disaster relief funds.