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Kaine, Boozman, & Tillis Announce Bipartisan Bill to Expand Jobs and Childcare for Military Families

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, on Military Spouse Appreciation Day, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and co-chair of the Senate Military Families Caucus, and John Boozman (R-AR) announced the reintroduction of 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 incentivize businesses to hire military spouses and create new flexible spending accounts (FSAs) to make it easier for military families to afford childcare. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, cosponsored the legislation. 

“I’m constantly amazed at military families’ willingness to sacrifice in service to our nation,” said Kaine. “In return, we should do what we can to address their struggles and remove obstacles to their economic security. By incentivizing private businesses to hire military spouses and allowing military families to use pre-tax dollars to pay for childcare, we can alleviate some of the unique hardships military families face and put them on firmer financial footing.”

“Military spouses and families play such an important role supporting our service members and they often face unique challenges in the course of that service. We should always be looking for ways to reduce their burdens and help meet their distinct needs, particularly in light of the impact frequent relocations and lengthy deployments have on their finances and responsibilities. I’m proud to be part of this bipartisan effort to make it easier for military spouses to find employment opportunities and help these heroic families afford childcare services,” Boozman said.

“I have always been a strong advocate for military spouses who serve our country by supporting their husband or wife,” said Tillis. “Unfortunately, many military spouses struggle to find good jobs or affordable childcare as their families often transfer from state to state. This bill helps military spouses find employment and affordable childcare wherever they go.” 

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 moving spouses will often be in a position where they are leaving jobs for 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 privately run childcare. 

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

  • Expand the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to incentivize businesses to hire military spouses, similar to veterans and other populations that face employment obstacles.
  • Create Dependent Care Savings Accounts. These would be FSAs that military families could opt into 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. 

In 2018, the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (FY 19 NDAA) included a provision based on a previous version of the Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act to encourage the Department of Defense to establish dependent care FSAs. The Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act of 2021 would mandate such FSAs by law. The FY 19 NDAA also included nearly every provision from Kaine’s Military Spouse Employment Act, which expanded hiring and career opportunities for military spouses, improved access to continuing education programs, expanded transition and counseling resources, increased small business opportunities for military spouses, provided more opportunities for family wellness programs on military bases, and addressed the constant transfers and moves military families experience.

The full text of the bill is available here.