FEMA will now cover the full National Guard costs, which the states were previously ordered to fund themselves. | Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo
President Donald Trump on Friday added Arizona, California and Connecticut to the small list of states that are exempt from covering a portion of the costs of National Guard troops combating the coronavirus pandemic.
Those three states, however, will only receive 100 percent federal funding until September 30, while Texas and Florida will be fully supported through the end of the year.
Pending further announcements, all other states will have to pay a quarter of the deployment costs starting later this month.
The cost-sharing decision, announced Monday when Trump extended the nationwide National Guard coronavirus response mission until the end of 2020, drew outcry at a time when many state governments are in dire financial situations. State leaders and federal lawmakers are also complaining about Trump’s move to carve out exceptions for Florida and Texas.
The president was quickly accused of playing politics by singling out two must-win battleground states in the November election as other states faced worse Covid-19 outbreaks.
The White House said Thursday that only Texas and Florida’s governors appealed directly to the president for full funding — a claim other states dispute. Now, many other governors are requesting calls with President Trump to make their case to be spared from the impending funding cut.
According to three directives issued Friday, the Federal Emergency Management Administration will now cover the full National Guard costs through Sept. 30 for Arizona, Connecticut and California. It does not give a justification for why those states were selected, or why their full federal funding is set to terminate earlier than Texas and Florida’s.
On a call the National Governors Association’s Council of Governors held Thursday with top officials from the White House, Defense Department, FEMA and other agencies, multiple governors complained that states are not being treated equally and decisions shouldn’t be made based on a personal phone call with Trump, according to a readout of the call obtained by POLITICO.
On that call, the White House encouraged other governors to “send a ‘demand signal’ and inform the President as to why authorization and the cost share are uniquely needed.”
California has the highest total number of coronavirus cases, but not the highest number per capita. Arizona, which Trump recently praised as a model, has improved in recent weeks, but continues to struggle with a high case count, a high percentage of people testing positive, and nearly full ICUs in its hospitals. Connecticut this week saw zero new deaths and its lowest test positivity rate in months — less than a quarter of one percent — indicating the state is well on its way to suppressing the virus.
An estimated 25,000 Guard troops are deployed nationwide in the coronavirus response efforts, running testing sites, conducting contact tracing and building hospitals.