WASHINGTON – Five lieutenant governors came to the nation's capital Wednesday to propose legislation that would give monetary aid to families whose main breadwinners are deployed by the National Guard.
For many of the soldiers,being paid by Uncle Sam requires taking a cut in earnings. Often the part-time soldiers leave behind families with a stack of bills that only adds to their worries when they are called to active duty.
“They have been taken out of their careers,separated from their families and put in harm's way on our behalf … and so while they are over there,putting their life on the line,their families are back home,in many cases,struggling,” said Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty,R. “This is a way for us to say – we support you.”
The proposal would place a check box on state tax-return forms to allow people to make a tax-deductible donation to a military family relief fund.
Illinois began such a fund in July,and the state has received more than 2,500 applications for support,according to the Illinois National Guard public affairs office.
“More than 500 Illinois National Guard soldiers were recently called to active duty. We owe it to our soldiers and airmen to ensure that their families have assistance available to them,” said Brig. Gen. Randal Thomas of the Illinois National Guard in a press release.
There are 192,122 National Guard members and reservists on active duty with a combined total of 311,951 dependents,according to Defense Department statistics.
National Guardsmen and reservists,commonly known as civilian soldiers,account for 40 percent of the troops in Iraq,according to Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn,D.
The program would give families grants based on need. In Illinois,grants range from $500 to $2,000 and cover such expenses as rent,utilities and medical bills.
Quinn gave an example of a family in Arlington Hills,Ill.,that lost 70 percent of its income when the husband,a father of three,was called to active duty.
“It's hard to make ends meet when you have such a decline in family income. Basic things,like just long-distance phone calls are quite expensive,” Quinn said.
The other lieutenant governors who support the bill are André Bauer,R-S.C.; Cruz Bustamante,D-Calif.; Beverly Daggett,D-Maine; Brian Dubie,R-Vt.; Mary Fallin,R-Okla.; Kerry Healey,R-Mass.; Cathy Baker Knoll,D-Pa.; Mitch Landrieu,D-La.; Loren Leman,R-Alaska; and Beverly Perdue,D-N.C.