Florida Will Be Helped by New Law Helping Veterans With GI Bill Benefits During Coronavirus Crisis

Leaders from the Sunshine State cheered the quick action of President Donald Trump and Congress freeing up GI Bill benefits for veterans whose education was interrupted by the coronavirus crisis.

At the start of last week, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., brought out a proposal letting the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs continue GI Bill benefits during national emergencies and expanding how those benefits can be used for online and distance education.

The bill cleared both chambers of Congress last week with no opposition and Trump signed it into law on Friday. U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., Neal Dunn, R-Fla., and Greg Steube, R-Fla., all cosponsored Roe’s proposal.

On Friday, the governor’s office stressed the impact the new law would have on the Sunshine State.

“In 2018, Florida had over 43,000 student veterans using VA education benefits, and almost 36,000 of those veterans used the GI Bill. Without this important legislation, GI Bill veteran students were not able to use their benefits for virtual or distance learning, and would have seen a reduction of their monthly housing allowance, through no fault of their own,” the governor’s office noted.

“Thanks to the swift action of Congress and President Trump, veterans do not need to worry about paying their expenses while furthering their education online during the COVID-19 health emergency. This is great news for our veterans attending school on the GI Bill. As a veteran, I know how important it is for veterans to have the opportunity to further their education after leaving the service,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“GI Bill education benefits for veterans in Florida and throughout the country will continue uninterrupted online following legislation passed through the US House this week. This important measure ensures our military heroes will be able to continue their education through distance learning during national emergencies like COVID-19. I’m grateful that this provision was included in Congress’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and that the Florida education system has acted quickly to ensure our veterans will be able to seamlessly transition online and continue receiving this important benefit,” said U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.

“I am thrilled that President Trump and Congress took immediate action to allow the thousands of Florida veterans currently enrolled in our state colleges and district technical centers to continue their education completely online. Education is freedom, and providing education to our veterans who fought to keep our country free is a privilege for our education system. The Florida College System and technical centers are proud to provide a world-class education and world-class support for our veterans,” said Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs Executive Director Danny Burgess also backed the new law.

“I’m proud as an American to see the prompt, bipartisan actions taken to ensure our veterans continue their post-secondary education without a loss of benefits during this national crisis. With more than 43,000 Florida veterans and their eligible family members using their earned GI Bill benefits, this continuation of full benefits will go a long way to help them fulfill their educational pursuits,” Burgess said.

The new law also garnered the support of college leaders from across the state including Dr. Jim Murdaugh, the president of Tallahassee Community College and the chairman of the Florida College System Council of Presidents.

“I applaud our federal leaders for prioritizing our veterans’ education during this national emergency. The new law will allow us to continue to provide benefits and services uninterrupted so that our students can focus on their coursework. It’s yet another example of how we are all working together to remain flexible and supportive, even under these extraordinary circumstances,” Murdaugh said.

Marsan Carr, the executive director of the Florida Association for Career and Technical Education, also said the new law will help veterans across the state.

“Supporting veterans in their ability to continue their career and technical education coursework without disruption is exciting. They have been the backbone of this country in other times of crisis and we need to support them now,” Carr said.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

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