CRANSTON – Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn joined with Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty to launch a drive to create a Rhode Island Military Family Relief Fund modeled on Illinois’ successful program to help families of National Guard members and reservists called to active duty.
“I am proud to work with Lieutenant Governor Fogarty to lend a helping hand to military families in Rhode Island,” Quinn said. “This is a giant step in the nationwide grassroots movement to create military family relief funds in every state.”
Lt. Gov. Quinn worked closely with Lt. Gov. Fogarty to pass a resolution urging adoption by state legislators of “Military Family Relief Funds” to help the families of National Guard and reservists called to active duty in the fight against terrorism. The National Lieutenant Governors Association unanimously adopted the resolution on February 13 in Washington D.C.
Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer (R-South Carolina) and Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante
(D-California) are pushing for legislation to create a South Carolina and California Military Family Relief Fund. Lieutenant Governors in several other states plan to introduce similar legislation.
The root of the problem, Quinn said, is the serious disparity between the civilian salary and military paycheck of many “citizen soldiers” which imposes financial hardships on the families when the breadwinner is called to active duty. And National Guard members and reservists now comprise a larger percentage of frontline fighting forces than in any war in history (25 percent now; projected to be 40 percent by April.)
Currently, there are 525 Rhode Island National Guard members and reservists on active duty. These citizen soldiers have a combined total of 946 dependents, according to Defense Department statistics.
The Illinois Military Family Relief Fund - drafted by Quinn and unanimously passed by the General Assembly - was signed into law in February, 2003, by Governor Rod Blagojevich. It enables Illinois taxpayers to voluntarily donate to the Fund on their state income tax forms through a check-off mechanism. The Fund assists the families of Illinois National Guard members and reservists called to active duty with rent, car payments and utility bills. Some 1,800 families have received $1,041,500 from the Fund already.
“The Military Family Relief Fund is a voluntary and direct way for people to show their appreciation to the men and women in the National Guard and reserves who have answered the call of duty,” Quinn said. “I salute Lt. Gov. Fogarty for his leadership in giving the people of Rhode Island an opportunity to help their neighbors in uniform, and will assist him in any way possible.”
Illinois taxpayers just received their state income tax forms, on which they may donate as much as they wish to the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund. To get the fund up-and-running, Gov. Blagojevich authorized $5 million, and Quinn’s office raised more than $83,000 in contributions from corporations, community groups and everyday citizens. For more on the fund, visit www.OperationHomeFront.org.
“President Abraham Lincoln reminded us of our duty to ‘…care for them who have borne the battle.’ The American people want to help and the Military Family Relief Fund is an efficient way for them to do so,” Quinn said.
Quinn visited Iraq in January where he greeted troops at several military bases. The first state elected official to visit the frontlines in Iraq, Quinn told Illinois troops not to worry about their loved ones making the rent or grocery bills since assistance through the Military Family Relief Fund is now available.
“Let’s give Rhode Island National Guard members and reservists the same peace of mind,” Quinn said.