Legislation that could provide need-based financial assistance to area Florida National Guard members and their families has passed the Florida Senate and is awaiting a full vote in the House.
Sen. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg, sponsored Senate Bill 644, which authorizes a direct support organization to administer a newly created Soldiers and Airmen Assistance Program for eligible National Guard members and their families. In a release, Justice said the initiative was designed to help National Guard members get need-based assistance through private donations.
Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, said she had read through a similar House bill, H.B. 395, and thought it was good legislation that would help National Guard members. Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, also expressed his support for the legislation. The House bill unanimously passed through three committees and has been added to the House’s second reading calendar.
The legislation comes as almost 2,500 Florida National Guard soldiers with the 1st Squadron, 153rd Cavalry Regiment are serving overseas in Kuwait and Iraq, part of the largest mass deployment statewide since World War II.