As the 117th Congress comes to a close, military spouses are wondering whether legislators will finally act to address the high unemployment rates faced by the community for well over a decade. Good news: There’s still time.
The Military Spouse Hiring Act (H.R. 2974/S. 3909) will add military spouses as a target group under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program, incentivizing businesses to hire these spouses. MOAA, the National Military Family Association, and the National Military Spouse Network have worked tirelessly to grow support for this legislation. Both bills have broad, bipartisan co-sponsorship, and committee staff have not expressed significant concerns about the legislation.
Over the last quarter-century, Congress has addressed high unemployment rates among certain target groups such as veterans, “qualified ex-felons,” and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients, by establishing and enhancing the WOTC program. This program incentivizes employers to hire members of target groups by providing a tax credit, which averages $2,400 per employee but can be as high as $9,600.
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Legislation was introduced in 2005 to add military spouses to this list of target groups, and it’s been reintroduced nearly every year since. The bills vary on the inclusion of Guard and Reserve military spouses in the target group, but have previously garnered impressive support; MOAA and our partner organizations support the more inclusive bill, as the unemployment rate among Guard and Reserve spouses is double the national average.
This year marks the first time the Military Spouse Hiring Act has been introduced in both chambers, and with 262 co-sponsors in the House and 47 in the Senate as of Oct. 18, MOAA is optimistic it will finally cross the finish line.
Unlike most legislation affecting military families, this bill cannot be neatly tucked into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), as it is outside the committees’ jurisdiction. However, MOAA anticipates an end-of-year “tax extenders” package could serve as a vehicle for passage of the Military Spouse Hiring Act. There are approximately 40 tax provisions under consideration for an extenders package, which is why it is vital that we continue our outreach efforts to grow support for this bill.
In some states – Arizona, New Hampshire, and North Dakota, for example – the entire delegation has signed on. In others – Kentucky, South Carolina, and Texas, for instance – there is a distinct lack of support, especially considering nearly 66,000 active-duty spouses and 60,000 Guard and Reserve spouses are stationed in these states.
Congressional staffers are competent and highly motivated, but they don’t always understand the specific challenges military families experience. As members of this great community, it falls on our shoulders to educate and advocate. The midterm election results will shed more light on the likelihood, size, and scope of a tax extenders package. In the meantime, contact your lawmakers and ask them to support the Military Spouse Hiring Act.
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