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Michigan lawmakers ask Trump administration not to cut National Guard funding

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Michigan's congressional delegation is pressing the Trump administration not to cut funding for the Michigan National Guard, which is helping with the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

President Donald Trump last week extended the deployment of National Guard members through year's end but said most states would have to start picking up 25% of the cost starting this month. 

More:Michigan National Guard to continue COVID work through year's end, but state will pay 25%

At least two states were exempted from the cost-sharing, Texas and Florida, a pair of populous states with Republican governors friendly with the president. 

Thirteen bipartisan members of Congress from Michigan, led by U.S. Reps. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, and Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, wrote to top members of Trump's Cabinet on Monday, urging them to extend the 100% reimbursement rate for the National Guard for the remainder of the calendar year in Michigan. 

The Michigan National Guard has aided the state in performing testing for COVID-19; distributing personal protective equipment; food and medical supplies; disinfecting public spaces; and supporting public safety when needed.

The state has confirmed nearly 88,000 coronavirus cases and 6,257 deaths through Monday.

"However, the federal cost sharing reduction from 100% to 75% could have a detrimental impact on Michigan’s ability to respond to any emerging coronavirus threats, as our state has relied heavily on the National Guard to fight COVID-19," the members wrote. 

"Additionally, this reduction in federal cost sharing may force our state to make additional cuts to other critical services. If recent trends are any indicator, this pandemic is far from over and the economic impacts will be felt for years to come."

Members of the Michigan National Guard move bed mattresses to Hall C for patients with coronavirus at the TCF Center.

The letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf was signed by every member of Michigan's House delegation except for Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash. 

The extension of the Title 32 status provides for continued federal pay and benefits for Guard members. It had been set to expire Aug. 21, but will now last through Dec. 31, with the state expected to 25% of costs starting Aug. 21.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has praised the Guard as "crucial" to the state's emergency response.

Last week, she thanked Trump for granting her request to extend the Title 32 status but lamented the additional cost when the state is already facing "severe holes" in our state budgets. 

State officials estimate that Michigan is facing a $3-billion shortfall in its budget that starts Oct. 1 and warn that severe cuts to public safety, education and health care services in Michigan would be "unavoidable" unless the federal government provides more financial aid through another relief package.

"We need the president and Congress to work together in a bipartisan way to support states like Michigan," Whitmer said. 

mburke@detroitnews.com