Buffalo, NY – With more than 1,000 veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan out of work in Western New York, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today held an important roundtable meeting with veterans and business leaders at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park to discuss solutions. Senator Gillibrand, who began work on the Senate Armed Services Committee this month, discussed her plans to provide tax credits for businesses who hire vets, provide more job training for veterans, and establish better methods to prepare troops that are leaving the service for the difficult job market.
“Too many Western New York veterans are coming home to a very bad job market and struggling to find work,” Senator Gillibrand said. “They fulfilled their duty to our country, and now we have a moral responsibility to provide veterans with a good paying job and real economic opportunity. The work ethic and character of these veterans make them the most productive and successful members of our workforce, but we have to make sure they have all the tools they need to be successful. The members of our military put their lives on the line to keep us safe, yet struggle to find jobs when they come home. We need a comprehensive approach including job training and employment assistance to the men and women returning home, and tax breaks for businesses who hire our veterans.”
N.Y. State Senator Timothy M. Kennedy, D-Western New York, said, “More than 1,000 proud Western New York veterans, who made the sacrifice to leave their families in order to defend our freedom, have been forced to endure the struggle of unemployment upon their return home. This is a disturbing trend that we need to fix. After risking their lives to protect us, it is our duty to do everything we can to protect veterans and their families, starting with connecting them to good-paying job opportunities. I commend Senator Gillibrand for not only calling attention to this issue, but also for developing real solutions to address the problem.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that over 15 percent of veterans who have served post 9-11 are unemployed, which is an increase from 12.6 percent unemployment just one year ago. Estimates based on this data and U.S. Census data show that an estimated more than 1,000 Western New York veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are unemployed.
Jobs for Veterans, Tax Cuts for Businesses
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that Senator Gillibrand helped pass expanded the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to include new incentives for businesses to hire returning veterans, and extended them through the end of 2010.
Statewide, businesses have hired nearly 800 New York veterans using the credit.
To raise awareness of the tax credit, Senator Gillibrand has been working closely with local Chambers of Commerce across New York State to encourage their member businesses use the tax credit, and hire New York veterans returning home. In return for hiring a veteran, businesses may write off 40 percent of the first $6,000 paid to a veteran. The veteran needs to be out of the service for no more than five years.
The Defense Department would also be required to issue information about the tax credit to exiting service members, and provide documentation to demonstrate their eligibility for the credit.
To continue supporting businesses as they work to grow and create jobs, Senator Gillibrand is now working to make this tax credit permanent so all recent veterans will have better opportunities for a good-paying job as they return home to their families.
Veterans Employment Act
While veterans have the skills, determination, discipline and talent to succeed in the 21st century economy, more than 21 percent are currently unemployed. Veterans face unique challenges that translate into trouble finding a job or starting a business. For instance, members of the Armed Forces learn a wide range of technical and leadership skills during their time in the military, but often find it difficult to transfer these skills to civilian professions. Too often veterans fall through the cracks of existing employment assistance programs or do not qualify for their services. The economic downturn has hit younger veterans especially hard, with more than twenty-one percent of veterans ages 18 to 24 going without jobs when they return home.
Senator Gillibrand is working with Senate Veterans Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray to introduce the Veterans Employment Act, which would help veterans translate their unique skills into career success by expanding job training, placement services and entrepreneurship opportunities for veterans who may otherwise have fallen through the cracks of existing programs. Specifically, it will include:
- Establishing a Veteran Business Center Program within the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide critical entrepreneurial training and counseling to veterans. This program would provide financial assistance private nonprofit organizations to establish and operate veterans’ business centers in order to provide entrepreneurial training and counseling to veterans and their spouses or surviving spouses.
- Creating pilot programs to test ways transitioning servicemembers can build on the technical skills learned in the military and better market those skills in the civilian workforce in fields such as information technology, law enforcement and health care.
- Establishing a Veterans Conservation Corps Grant Program and a Veterans Energy/Green Jobs Grant Program to connect veterans with the green jobs market of the future. These programs would allow veterans to continue to serve their country while acquiring new skills and training that will better enable them to find employment in the civilian workforce.
Transition From Active Duty To The Job Market
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Gillibrand is working to better prepare returning servicemembers for life outside the military. The high unemployment rate and difficult job market require that the military make changes to the standard programs that are offered to troops as they transition to veteran status. Senator Gillibrand is undergoing a full scale review of job training and other services that are being provided to these servicemembers.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Defense has several programs to help active duty transition including Transition Assistance, Yellow Ribbon, and opportunities to complete college or vocational training while still on base. However, these programs are not meeting the needs of servicemembers as the move into the job market. Senator Gillibrand is working to ensure that troops are aware of the benefits available to them, have the time to access training while on active duty and after they leave, and receive cutting edge information about the civilian job market and the match between the skills they gained in the military and the civilian employment opportunities.