President Donald Trump on Aug. 3 announced the extension of Title 32 orders for National Guard members responding to the COVID-19 pandemic through the end of 2020, a move affecting about 25,000 Air and Army National Guard members still deployed in all 50 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia
Earlier that day, the National Governors Association called on the president to extend Title 32 orders beyond the Aug. 21 deadline. In a press release the association said, “we urge the President to continue to extend the use of Title 32 as part of COVID-19 recovery and reopening efforts, which is still critically necessary today, and likely until a vaccine is available.” The National Governors Association represents all the leaders of 55 states, territories, and commonwealths.
The extension comes with a cost share for continued federal support in most of the nation. Texas and Florida will continue to receive full federal funding for Title 32 orders through year’s end, but other states and territories receiving federal support will have to pay 25% of the bill.
How states respond to the cost share ask remains to be seen. Continued uncertainty among members of the reserve component could have downstream effects for re-employment and other financial contracts servicemembers and their families signed. If a servicemember is extended until a vaccine is available and the economic situation remains stagnant with millions unemployed or even worsens, is their job at risk?
These potential concerns highlight the importance of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protections. These rights and protections are necessary to support a national response on this scale by the reserve components.
An extended activation for servicemembers may lead to situations where they may need these protections. Unfortunately, many servicemembers may have already forfeited their rights due to forced arbitration clauses – contract language preventing them from taking any grievances to court, which could prevent them from realizing their full service-earned benefits.
MOAA has long opposed these clauses, and this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) reignites hope that action may be taken to end them. A bipartisan floor amendment from Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Jared Golden (D-Maine), Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.), and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) passed and was added to the final House bill.
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With the House and Senate version of the NDAA passed, the next step is for the chambers to work out differences between the versions in the NDAA conference.
Your voice will be critical in the coming weeks; stay tuned to the latest MOAA advocacy news and watch your inbox for The MOAA Newsletter to see how you can help this section and many other critical provisions reach the final NDAA.