The women and men of Washington’s National Guard assist communities across the state during times of crisis. In fact Guard members across the country are at this moment aiding in the COVID-19 pandemic response.

But our state is struggling to recruit and retain Guard members leaving our state at risk in times of crisis.

Today, a bill sponsored by Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens), himself a Lieutenant Colonel in the National Guard, was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Senate Bill 5197 creates the Washington National Guard Postsecondary Grant Program to provide Guard members with additional college tuition assistance. It also expands the class of Guard members who are eligible to receive awards to pursue higher education and career development, and it increases award amounts.

“Now more than ever, it is clear to all the importance of a well-trained, well-educated National Guard,” Hobbs said. “In times of crisis and uncertainty, like we find ourselves in now, the men and women of the National Guard are ready to answer the call. This legislation reiterates our state’s commitment to Guard members and instantly makes us more competitive and on-par with what other states are offering.”

Eligible students can receive an award for the cost of tuition and fees, plus up to $500 for books and materials. It also credits Guard members for time already served, instead of requiring them to complete additional service after using the award.

“Our National Guard members stand ready to serve our state and nation,” said Rep. Christine Kilduff (D-University Place), sponsor of companion legislation in the House of Representatives. “Increasing our investment in the education and career development of the Guard will make Washington more competitive and help recruit and retain Guard members.”

The 81st Striker Brigade Combat Team, our state’s largest National Guard unit, will start a year-long deployment to Poland as part of our NATO mission in Eastern Europe.

“When this unit returns stateside, I’m pleased that they’ll have much better benefits to higher education,” Hobbs said.