Legislation re-introduced Wednesday by Sen. Tim Kaine works to encourage military retention and force readiness by boosting the hiring of military spouses on the homefront.
Kaine’s Military Spouse Hiring Act would expand the existing Work Opportunity Tax Credit program to include active duty military spouses. The current program gives employers a one-time federal tax credit of up $2,400 for hiring an individual from one of 10 targeted groups who consistently face barriers to employment.
“This is a readiness issue that deals directly with retention,” Kaine said Wednesday during a Zoom conference.
Frequent moves often stall military spouses’ upward career progression and force them to find new jobs. And knowing an individual is a military spouse who is likely to relocate, Kaine said, can sway an employer from hiring them.
According to a 2021 survey by Blue Star Families, military spouses face unemployment rates four times the national average. The survey found military spouse employment is the top issue impacting active duty families, and the top contributor to financial stress among military families.
“You recruit the soldier, sailor, marine, or airman or woman in, but you retain the family … If you have real barriers for spouses, you are going to see people exiting when we usually want to retain them,” Kaine said.
The same bill was introduced in 2022, but failed to pass. Kaine said he believes this year will be different.
“I have very strong bipartisan partners on this in the Senate and also a bill in the House that is led by Don Beyer, so I think we have got a real good chance of getting this done this year,” Kaine said.
As of Wednesday, the bill was cosponsored by 20 senators, including Virginia’s Mark Warner. Beyer, also a Virginia Democrat, introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
If enacted, active duty military spouses would bring the qualifying targeted groups to 11. Among those who qualify are veterans receiving assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, ex-felons hired within a year of release from prison, individuals who have been unemployed for a minimum of 27 weeks, and Social Security Act Title IV-A recipients.
The legislation is supported by more than two dozen military adjacent organizations, including Blue Star Families, the National Military Spouse Network and the National Military Family Association.
“The military spouse unemployment rate has remained too high for too long. When military spouses can’t find work, it’s a problem for their family’s financial stability and wellbeing,” said Besa Pinchotti, executive director of the National Military Family Association.
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