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Gov. Edwards asks President Trump to stop charging for Louisiana National Guard coronavirus assistance

Louisiana

Louisiana National Guardsmen with the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team don protective suits to administer nasal swabs to first responders and medical personnel that exhibit COVID-19 symptoms at a mobile testing site at the Alario Center in Westwego, Louisiana, March 21, 2020. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Garrett L. Dipuma)

BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Gov. John Bel Edwards is asking President Donald Trump to reconsider requiring the state to pay part of the cost to continue using the Louisiana National Guard in the fight against the coronavirus.

Trump granted an extension earlier this week allowing the use of LANG for coronavirus relief efforts through the end of the year but requires the state to pay 25% of the cost. Edwards says that will amount to $2.5 million a month and if the situation remains consistent, it would cost the state more than $10 million to keep LANG active.

In a letter to the president Friday, Edwards requested that the extension of the Title 32 authorization for the Louisiana National Guard be reconsidered to cover 100 percent funding through the end of the year.

Edwards noted in his briefing Thursday that Texas and Florida will not be required to pay a share of the cost for having help from the National Guard in their states.

“I don’t begrudge Texas and Florida. I’m not upset that they’re getting 100 percent coverage. But I will tell you there is not a rational basis to distinguish between Louisiana and those two states when we have ridden the crests of both the first surge and the second surge, as evidenced by the fact that we’ve had more cases per capita than any other state.”

“The public health emergency in Louisiana is significantly greater than that of Florida or Texas,” Edwards said in the letter to Trump.

The State of Louisiana remains at a critical phase of its efforts against the virus, and the support of the National Guard remains essential. As of the time of this letter, Louisiana continues in an extended Phase 2 status due to the recent spike of COVID-19 positive cases statewide which is reflected in Louisiana’s ranking of number 1 in cases per capita. This Phase 2 extension has prevented food banks across the state from accessing their normal pool of volunteers, making the National Guard’s ability to support food bank operations an important public service, particularly to underserviced populations. Additionally, two areas within Louisiana were identified as “hot spots” by DHHS allowing Louisiana to administer an additional 120,000 tests in these two areas.

Understanding that Florida and Texas were extended with 100 percent funding for Title 32, the Louisiana Department of Health provided critical data and comparisons to highlight the tenuous nature of what Louisiana is facing with this pandemic which are enclosed with this request. The public health emergency in Louisiana is significantly greater than that of Florida or Texas. Utilizing data available from each state health department, cumulative COVID-19 case incidence and the cumulative COVID-19 death rate are higher in Louisiana than Florida and Texas, with Louisiana’s death rate due to COVID-19 being higher than Florida and Texas combined. The most recent state-specific data from CDC on MIS-C is available in case count ranges. According to CDC, Louisiana has a higher number of MIS-C cases than both Florida and Texas.

Click here to read the letter.

The governor says there are 1,100 members of LANG who have been instrumental in helping the state respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency, helping with everything from receiving and warehousing PPE and equipment to running mobile testing sites and assisting with nursing home strike teams.

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