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States hope to keep National Guard virus workers

National Guard troops deployed in April for coronavirus relief, but if their help is cut off too soon, they could miss out on federal benefits.

In just about every national emergency, the National Guard responds and the coronavirus pandemic is no different. Now states stand to lose their soldiers who have been supporting local health departments, especially with COVID-19 testing. 

The Guard will be at a testing site in Portsmouth at Tidewater Community College this May 22 and May 23.

"Without the National Guard's assistance, it would be very difficult for us to have this event. They are really coming in, augmenting our services," said Portsmouth Health Director Dr. Lauren James.

After next month, that help is in jeopardy. The Trump administration is scheduled to cut off the deployment of 40,000 troops on June 24, one day before they would qualify for federal retirement and education benefits.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine says we should be thanking the National Guard, not running them away. 

"To have them do that work and pull that one day, we'll stop you short so you won't get benefits, that doesn't sound like thank you to me," Kaine said.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was one of several lawmakers who urged the Trump Administration to extend the deployment into July. 

A Pentagon spokesperson says the door isn't closed yet.

"Incrementally, we're making determinations on whether some of these missions should be extended, so no doors have closed. We'll continue as we have from the start of this and look at whether the National Guard is needed going forward," said Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Huffman.

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