For over a decade, military spouse unemployment has remained at a staggering 21% or higher. This persistent issue is due in large part to frequent military-mandated moves causing spouses to uproot their lives and careers every two to three years. These moves make it difficult for spouses to establish long-term careers or maintain employment in a particular location.
The process can be exponentially more difficult for spouses with children, who face time-consuming paperwork for new schools or child care, doctors, dentists, sports teams … the list goes on. DoD’s most recent survey of active duty spouses revealed spouses who want to work spend, on average, 19 weeks looking for employment following a PCS move.
Efforts to address high rates of unemployment among military spouses have previously centered on providing professional development and education opportunities. While these efforts are greatly appreciated and have provided enhanced opportunities beyond what was available to spouses just 25 years ago, another contributing factor remains unaddressed. The Military Spouse Hiring Act (H.R. 1277 | S. 596) is one potential solution.
[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Support the Military Spouse Hiring Act]
This legislation adds a new target group under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program, which was developed in 1996 to help specific populations facing significant barriers to employment, such as ex-felons or qualified veterans. The tax credit provides an incentive to businesses to hire and retain members of target groups.
Adding military spouses as a new target population not only will help incentivize their hiring, but it will also demonstrate the government’s acknowledgment of the unique challenges they face and willingness to implement all the policy levers available to address this persistent issue.
MOAA joined with our colleagues at the National Military Family Association and the National Military Spouse Network, to build strong, bipartisan support for the Military Spouse Hiring Act during the 117th Congress, with 282 co-sponsors in the House and 53 in the Senate. Both bills were reintroduced in the 118th Congress on March 1, with Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) introducing the Senate version and Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), and John Carter (R-Texas) taking the lead in the House. The actions of these lawmakers demonstrate their commitment to getting this legislation across the finish line.
This bill is not a silver bullet solution to the problems of military spouse un- and underemployment. There are still many challenges that warrant continued attention, such as increased portable and remote work opportunities and the nationwide child care shortage. But the Military Spouse Hiring Act is a step in the right direction, and it is encouraging to see the continued support of so many lawmakers.
MOAA needs your help. Contact your lawmakers today and urge them to support the Military Spouse Hiring Act. It’s time to create more opportunities for military spouses to find meaningful employment and help promote economic stability among military families.
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