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Military Spouse Hiring Act aims to bring down military spouse unemployment

The unemployment rate for military spouses is substantially higher than the national average.

NORFOLK, Va. — It's a problem many Hampton Roads families know all too well.

Military spouses' unemployment rate is substantially higher than the national joblessness average.

About 22% of the nation's roughly 479,000  military spouses are unemployed according to a September 2022 survey from the U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Those numbers make them one of the highest unemployed demographics in the United States.

It's a problem in dire need of a solution.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) on Wednesday re-introduced the "Military Spouse Hiring Act" which proposes to amend the tax code to incentivize businesses to hire military spouses.

The legislation would expand the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program which encourages employers to hire individuals who experience unique employment barriers, like military spouses.

Kaine said the bill isn't simply a matter of doing a nice thing. It's a matter of national security.

"This thing has so many benefits," he said. "If you have real barriers for the spouse, then you're going to see people exiting when we usually want to retain them. So, this is a readiness issue that deals directly with retention."

Hampton Roads Veterans Employment Center Director Sultan Camp said it's a great idea.

"Definitely applaud them," he said. "This is definitely not a partisan issue. It benefits our military community and strengthens national defense, so it's a no-brainer."

The Chamber survey of more than 4,100 active duty, veteran, retired, National Guard, and Reserve spouse respondents found that  90% agree or strongly agree that military service negatively affected their careers. IT also showed many military families say they're unable to save for retirement.

Another survey from Blue Star Families found that military spouse employment is the top issue impacting active-duty families and the top contributor to financial stress among military families.

Kaine's bill has bipartisan support from 20 other Senators. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Don Beyer. (D-Virginia, 8th District).

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