The federal government will continue to compensate the Hawaii National Guard’s COVID-19 response in the islands through March 31, the White House announced Thursday.

The federal government will cover 75% of the cost to compensate the Hawaii National Guard’s emergency assistance activities, which total about $8.5 million per month. The state will fund the remainder, which works out to about $2 million per month.

Guard members have been engaged in contact tracing, mobile testing drives, educational outreach for at-risk populations, health screenings and food and medical supply distribution initiatives across the islands.

Members of the Hawaii National Guard have assisted the Department of Health staff in offering COVID-19 testing at public housing complexes and conduct educational outreach for other populations at high risk for the disease. Eleni Gill/Civil Beat

In a press release, Gov. David Ige’s administration said the Hawaii National Guard will play a role in the state’s plan to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine once one is approved.

“The President’s approval of this funding extension will enable the Hawaii National Guard to continue to provide much needed assistance as we respond to this nationwide public health crisis and continue our effort to protect our communities, save lives and minimize human suffering,” Ige said in a statement.

Approximately 800 soldiers and airmen are currently helping with COVID-19 response efforts, and another 500 could be deployed if necessary.

Hawaii was among 47 states and the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to receive a federal funding extension.

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