Illinois congressional delegation seeks extension of 2,000 National Guard troops to assist with pandemic through June
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Illinois congressional delegation seeks extension of 2,000 National Guard troops to assist with pandemic through June

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Pfc. Sabine Gonzalez, 18, of Lombard, verifies the identification and personal information of a first responder Thursday, March 26, 2020 at the Illinois National Guard coronavirus testing facility on the Northwest Side.

A unified state congressional delegation Thursday asked Defense Secretary Mike Esper for a one-month extension of federally funded Illinois National Guard activations to assist in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic in congregate settings such as prisons and nursing homes.

“We have made progress, in no small part due to the Illinois National Guard. Gov. (J.B.) Pritzker, however, must continue to call on our neighbors in uniform; his plan to reopen the state relies on them to help combat the spread of COVID-19 in ‘hard hit areas such as prisons, nursing homes and other congregate housing facilities,’” the delegation letter to Esper said.

“This crisis is not yet over and we cannot let up now. We are indebted to the sacrifices of the men and women of the Illinois National Guard and grateful for their work yet to be done,” the members wrote.

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The letter notes that the original federally paid activation of 4,000 Guard members expires at the end of May. It requests an extension of 2,000 Guard activations through the end of June.

The letter from the state’s congressional delegation follows a similar request from Pritzker to President Donald Trump last Sunday.

“Although Illinois is starting to bend the curve, as you are keenly aware, we still have a significant requirement for community-based testing and support in hard-hit areas,” Pritzker’s letter said.

“I will ensure our response force is based on critical needs to fight this pandemic and only utilize the funding where necessary,” the governor said. “I will continue to assess the situation in Illinois and only request additional resources as required.”

The congressional letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, and the state’s 13 Democratic and five Republican House members.

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