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Shaheen Announces Support for Bipartisan Bill to Expand Jobs and Childcare for Military Families

(Washington, DC) – This week, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined legislation – the Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act – to address military spouse unemployment and access to affordable childcare. This bill would amend the tax code to provide businesses a financial incentive to hire military spouses and create new flexible spending accounts (FSAs) to make it easier for military families to afford childcare. The bipartisan bill was reintroduced by U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and John Boozman (R-AR).

“Military families sacrifice so much to serve and defend our nation – the least we can do is make sure they have access to job opportunities and affordable childcare services,” said Shaheen. “This bill helps connect military families with good-paying jobs by incentivizing private businesses to hire them, regardless of state transfers. It also addresses the burden of costly childcare by opening funding specifically for these services. I’m proud to join this effort to deliver economic security and affordable childcare to our service members, and I’ll keep working in the Senate to remove unique barriers facing military families.”

Active duty military spouses consistently experience unemployment rates substantially higher than the national rate, and one-third of employed military spouses report underemployment. Frequent moves often stall military spouses’ upward career progression and force them to find new jobs. The economic downturn associated with COVID-19 has exacerbated these challenges, as spouses leave jobs and move to places with elevated unemployment and fewer job openings than applicants. In addition, on-base childcare options are not always readily available or affordable, leading 65% of military families to choose private childcare. 

To address these problems, the Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act of 2021 would: 

  • Expand the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to create a tangible financial incentive for businesses to hire military spouses, equivalent to veterans and other populations that face employment obstacles.
  • Create Dependent Care Savings Accounts. FSAs that military families could use to reserve pre-tax dollars from their paychecks to pay for out-of-pocket childcare expenses. 

The Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act of 2021 has been endorsed by Blue Star Families, the National Military Family Association, the Military Officers Association of America, the Service Woman’s Action Network and Hiring Our Heroes. 

The full text of the bill is available here.

Senator Shaheen has spearheaded efforts in the Senate in support of military families. In the fiscal year (FY) 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that was signed into law, Shaheen successfully included a provision based on her bipartisan legislation with Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) that improves the transferability of military spouses’ occupational licenses, and also helps alleviate the burden spouses endure if they’re small business owners from having to constantly re-register their businesses as they move from state to state with their families. In government funding legislation for FY2022 unveiled by the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this week, Shaheen successfully secured $3 million to implement the legislation. Additionally, the funding legislation includes $22 million for the Beyond Yellow Ribbon (BYR) program, which funds the New Hampshire National Guard’s Care Coordination Program. BYR programs provide outreach services to troops returning from deployment, including health care, marriage and financial counseling, substance misuse treatment and mental health services. The FY2020 NDAA also included a provision Shaheen fought for that eliminates the military “widow’s tax” that prevents as many as 65,000 surviving military spouses nationwide from receiving their full Department of Defense (DOD) and VA survivor benefits.