The 1,400 recruits on hold because of the novel coronavirus pandemic may be eligible to be paid as privates under the new Future Soldier to Active Duty Program, U.S. Army Recruiting Command announced Thursday.
"The majority of the delays are in areas experiencing the largest COVID-19 outbreaks: the New York City metropolitan area, the northeast United States, southern California, south Florida and Seattle," Lisa Ferguson, a spokeswoman for Recruiting Command, told Military.com.
The program will pay future soldiers about $1,600 -- the base pay of an active-duty private -- as long as they have had their basic training dates rescheduled based on the virus risk level in their area, according to an April 2 news release posted on the command's website.
"It's important that we take care of our people," Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commanding general of Recruiting Command, said in the release. "This virus has been a challenge for all of us, and we want to be sure our future soldiers are not put into a difficult situation because we had to reschedule their ship dates. We are doing everything we can to protect our personnel and those who are in the process of joining our team."
Army recruiting officials are currently testing the program and expect to "launch with final authorities" sometime next week, Ferguson said.
Local recruiting battalion commanders will evaluate a recruit's individual situation based on current employment, access to housing, dependents and other factors to make a recommendation for approval to Recruiting Command, according to the release.
Once in the program, the future soldiers will be attached to the battalion and, as paid active-duty troops, will be required to meet regular physical fitness and other pre-basic training requirements until conditions allow them to safely ship to Basic Combat Training, the release states.
Army officials stressed that not every recruit on hold will be eligible for the payment program.
Rescheduled Future Soldiers who are ineligible for the Active Duty Program or choose to opt out may be eligible for a cash bonus when they are able to ship to their training base, according to the release. No details were provided.
Recruits that accept the conditions of the program will be subject to discipline under the Uniform Code of Military Justice if they decide not to ship to BCT, Ferguson said.
Currently, Army officials are still evaluating the total amount future soldiers in the program will be paid and what benefits will be included, he added.
"This is an unprecedented program, and the Army is still finalizing the details of the benefits involved," Ferguson said. "Right now, we are working on the base pay equal to a private, but there are other things being evaluated, such as family benefits."
Army recruiting officials stressed that this is not intended to attract new recruits.
"This is not an incentive for new applicants," Ferguson said. "It is intended to provide support for those future soldiers who are experiencing hardship because they were planning their lives around a set ship date that was delayed because of the COVID-19 outbreak."
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify soldier eligibility restrictions.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.