(Updated Feb. 24)
Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) introduced H.R. 5876, the Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act of 2020, on Feb. 12 as a companion bill to the Senate version introduced last summer by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) MOAA supports the legislation, which would include military spouses as a target group for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and provide Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) as an employee benefit for servicemembers.
“The Work Opportunity Tax Credit has been instrumental in reducing veteran unemployment rates and could be a vital solution to addressing the high military spouse unemployment rate.” said Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), MOAA’s president and CEO. “Additionally, every federal agency offers flexible spending accounts as an employee benefit. With the rising cost of health care and child care, now is the time to extend that benefit to servicemembers to give them an option to mitigate these financial burdens.
“MOAA fully supports this legislation and we urge members of Congress to sign on in support of this legislation — our military families deserve no less.”
[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Support the Legislation]
According to DoD, the military spouse unemployment rate sits at 24%, over six times the national average. While military spouses are more educated than their civilian counterparts, they have trouble finding employment due to the unique lifestyle requirements of the military such as relocating every two to three years, on average.
A tax credit would incentivize businesses to hire military spouses. MOAA would encourage businesses to use this tax credit strategically by investing in ways to retain their military spouse employees as they PCS through portable work options. Small and midsize businesses may not have the financial resources to invest in telework programs, and a tax credit for hiring a military spouse can prove beneficial to developing these important initiatives for talent retention.
[RELATED: MOAA’s Spouse Resources]
Another barrier for many military spouses entering the workforce is securing child care. Affordability and availability of child care is a nationwide issue; however, this issue is compounded for military families as they move from duty station to duty station. We hear from many military families about long waitlists, struggles to find care for the flexible hours the military requires from them, and how they take the cost of child care into consideration in their job search.
When you combine the struggles of having only one stable income and the rising cost of health and child care, it should be obvious that servicemembers deserve and need FSAs as an option to lessen these financial burdens.
“Military families face unique challenges during their service to our nation, and unfortunately deployments and frequent moves can often lead to financial insecurity,” Norcross said. “My bill increases job opportunities for military spouses and expands access to affordable childcare, easing the burden on our servicemembers and their families by providing them the tools they need to succeed.”
According to the Office of Personnel Management, more than 420,000 federal employees take advantage of FSAs, a pre-tax savings account which helps them save on average 30% on health and dependent care expenses. It’s time to extend this benefit to servicemembers.
Take action and ask your members of Congress to support H.R. 5876 or S. 1803.