MOAA-Backed Legislation Targets Spouse Jobs, Child Care

MOAA-Backed Legislation Targets Spouse Jobs, Child Care
A preschool program employee at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., holds a tea party with Holloman children on Jan. 23. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Adrian Salazar/Air Force)

On May 7, Military Spouse Appreciation Day, Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) announced the reintroduction of the Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act.


The bill, S. 1532, It is a companion bill to the House version, H.R. 148, introduced earlier this year by Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.).


MOAA supports the legislation, which provides for military spouses to be included as a target group for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and allows uniformed servicemembers to utilize flexible spending accounts (FSA) as an employee benefit.


“I’m constantly amazed at military families’ willingness to sacrifice in service to our nation,” Kaine said in the announcement. “In return, we should do what we can to address their struggles and remove obstacles to their economic security.”


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The alarming rate of military spouse unemployment, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, still hovers around 24 percent, which is nearly four times that of the general population, according to the Blue Star Families Pain Points Poll.


While military spouses are often more educated than their civilian counterparts, they struggle to find and maintain gainful employment due to the unique lifestyle requirements of the military such as PCSing every two to three years, on average. Providing a tax credit gives businesses an incentive to hire military spouses.


The WOTC is a federal tax credit available to employers for hiring individuals in certain groups such as veterans. 


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“The Work Opportunity Tax Credit has been instrumental in reducing veteran unemployment rates and could provide a vital solution to addressing the high military spouse unemployment rate,” said Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), MOAA’s president and CEO. “The economic downturn associated with COVID-19 has exacerbated military spouse unemployment, making the need for this legislation timely and urgent.”


Securing affordable, quality child care is another obstacle many spouses face when entering the workforce. While this is a nationwide issue, the challenge is magnified for military families moving from duty station to duty station. Long waiting lists, lack of providers with flexible hours, and the consideration of child care costs when job hunting are among the chief complaints MOAA hears from spouses seeking employment.


Providing uniformed servicemembers the opportunity to establish flexible spending accounts (FSAs) would ease these burdens. FSAs would allow servicemembers to opt in to reserve pre-tax dollars from their paychecks to pay for out-of-pocket child care expenses. According to the Office of Personnel Management, a pre-tax savings account can save a user about 30 percent on health and dependent care expenses. For a person earning $50,000 who contributes $2,000 into an FSA, the saving is approximately $600. This means you get $2,000 worth of purchasing power, plus pay about $600 less in federal taxes.


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“We should always be looking for ways to reduce their [military families] burdens and help meet their distinct needs, particularly in light of the impact frequent relocations and lengthy deployments have on their finances and responsibilities.” Boozman said. “I’m proud to be part of this bipartisan effort to make it easier for military spouses to find employment opportunities and help these heroic families afford childcare services.”


It’s time to make substantive changes to reduce military spouse unemployment and improve child care for these dedicated families. This legislation provides meaningful improvements to produce lasting change.


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About the Author

Jen Goodale
Jen Goodale

Goodale is MOAA's Director of Government Relations for Military Family and Survivor Policy.