Proposal would extend Florida National Guard tuition coverage to out-of-state online schools
A new bill tabled in the House this week would extend education benefits for members of the Florida National Guard to those taking online classes at schools outside the state.
representing Dan Daley from Coral Springs filed Tuesday HB 999, which would revise eligibility for Education dollars for duty (EDD), a major benefit and recruiting tool that covers the tuition and fees of eligible troops.
The program currently only pays members of the National Guard to enroll in in-person and online degree programs offered by colleges, universities, and technical schools across the state.
Daley’s Bill would change that by extending coverage to online degree programs other than Florida – up to the highest tuition rate for online education in Florida.
“The soldiers and airmen of the Florida National Guard are working hard, devoting their lives to serving our great state,” Daley said in a declaration. âWhen we have the opportunity, we have to find ways to give back to these men and women – this legislation does just that. “
Existing EDD restrictions would still apply. Eligible students must be at least 17 years of age and active members in good standing with the Florida National Guard. To remain in the program, they must maintain continuous and satisfactory participation in the National Guard for the school term.
ESD also does not cover training costs beyond a single master’s degree.
The program ran into budget problems this year amid the busiest activation period for National Guard troops since World War II. In April, the EDD stopped approving requests soldiers. The funding has run out.
Some 250 members of the guard were denied benefits, the Florida National Guard said. They continued to be discovered until the launch of the new budget on July 1.
The EDD program operates with an annual recurring credit of $ 3.1 million. In 2020 and 2021, it received an additional one-time credit of $ 1 million, bringing the total program budget to $ 4.1 million. Service members have completely drained funds this year and last year.
Volusia County Senator. Tom wright, who chairs the Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Homeland Security, told Florida Politics in July that demand for the program had exceeded supply.
âThe ($ 4.1 million) has always been enough money,â he said. “But I think what’s going on is probably the guards, men and women, are probably finding out, by word of mouth, about this program.” And so, we ran out of about $ 600,000.
EDD also suspended benefits due to funding shortages during the 2016-17 fiscal year under the former government. Rick scott.
Earlier this month, Gov. Ron DeSantis suggested increasing ESD funding to $ 5.1 per year as part of a state budget proposal that includes over $ 100 million to support the National Guard.
The bulk of that, around $ 85 million, would cover the expansion of a National Guard readiness center in Miramar and the construction of three additional armories in Homestead, Gainesville and Malabar.
But the proposed budget also includes $ 3.5 million to restore the Florida State Guard, a paramilitary force that would report solely to the governor.
If passed, Florida would become the 23rd state with federally recognized state custody.
Florida Politics reporter Jason Delgado contributed to this story.
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