Kaine introduces bill to reduce military spouse unemployment
U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, Co-Chair of the Senate Military Family Caucus, introduced new legislation to help reduce military spouse unemployment and examine the effects of frequent moves and reassignments on military spouses’ careers.
The Military Spouse Employment Act of 2018 expands hiring and career opportunities, improves access to continuing education programs, helps ensure military families can find affordable child care, and provides better transition and employment resources for military spouses. Military families frequently face financial insecurity due to spousal unemployment, which impacts the overall success of our military. Somewhere between 12% and 25% of military spouses are unemployed. Kaine met with military spouses in Virginia last year to listen to their suggestions, and incorporated many of those ideas into the Military Spouse Employment Act. Kaine is joined by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee and Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, as original cosponsors of the legislation.
“After speaking with military spouses across Virginia, I’ve heard again and again about the difficulty spouses face in finding work as a result of frequent moves and unexpected transfers,” Kaine said. “This reality hurts our military readiness and causes financial insecurity for the military families who selflessly serve our country. Military spouses bring a lot of talent to the workforce, and this bill will expand job opportunities available to them and ultimately help us bring down the high military spouse unemployment rate.”
Throughout the last year, Kaine, the proud father of a Marine, heard from military spouses, business leaders, and military family advocates about how to best address the high level of military spouse unemployment. A year ago in Hampton, Kaine sat down with military spouses, who spoke about the lack of employment opportunities and reliable child care, and the strain it has put on their families. Following the event, he asked Northern Virginia Technology Council and Blue Star Families, a military families advocacy organization, to help him bring together a group of individuals with diverse opinions and experiences for a summit with military spouses and business leaders to brainstorm ideas for improving employment opportunities. Kaine also invited Lakesha Cole – a military spouse and entrepreneur who is a native of Portsmouth, VA – to be his guest to the State of the Union Address as a way to highlight the service of military families and build bipartisan support to address military spouse unemployment. Lakesha and other members of the Military Families Advisory Network joined Senator Kaine in Suffolk, VA on Friday to announce the legislation.
The Military Spouse employment Act tackles four main areas that spouses and advocates raised with Senator Kaine:
- Boosts military spouses’ competitiveness in the job market
- Supports military spouse entrepreneurship
Continuing Education and Training
- Instructs the Department of Defense to expand educational opportunities for military spouses
- Makes it easier for military families to find affordable child care by ensuring that the Department of Defense is providing adequate access to care.
Counseling and Transition Assistance
- Provides military spouses with training and resources to ease their families’ transitions to civilian life
This legislation is endorsed by Blue Star Families, Military Officers Association of America, National Military Families Association, the Military Family Advisory Network, and The American Legion.
“In 24 years as an active duty military spouse, I moved 19 times and had 3 kids and 15 different career changes—most of those in different industries. I lost a massive amount of income when we were overseas and felt like we never really caught up. I never really got paid at the level my peers would have been paid because of my lack of time in industries. Because of that, the financial insecurity made it really difficult. One thing I love about this bill is the access to transition assistance programs for spouses and making it consistent across the board at every base. For 24 years, I’ve been waiting to see something like this, so I thank Senator Kaine very much,” Erin Ward, Virginia Beach resident and member of the Military Family Advisory Network, said at the Suffolk announcement event.
“Our military sacrifices a lot – we shouldn’t have to sacrifice the second income we need to provide for our families’ future. It’s time for Congress to address this issue that impacts so many military families, and this legislation by Senator Kaine is the right place to start to make a difference,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO of Blue Star Families and a military spouse.
“The choice to serve in our military impacts the entire family. This bill honors the service that touches every corner of family life, from spouse employment to childcare and successful transition. We are grateful for Sen. Kaine’s recognition of these challenges and his efforts to remove barriers to success for military families,” the Military Officers Association of America stated.