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February 24, 2014

Following the Call

Military families around the commonwealth are holding their breath as unemployment legislation from the Senate (SB18) makes its way through the House of Delegates this week.  Here’s why.

Right now, 45 states provide unemployment benefits to the spouses of our men and women in uniform when their families are uprooted because of reassignments.

Virginia isn’t one of them. SB 18 would fix that.

Our military families have few options when Uncle Sam moves them around the state or the country and they lose a second income. They have to follow orders, even if that means sacrificing a spouse’s job.

But that’s hard when a household relies on two incomes. Virginia’s lawmakers can step in to help these uprooted families, by allowing military spouses to receive unemployment benefits while they transition between jobs.

This would soften the blow for military families and help them get back on their feet after they get reassigned.

On average, recipients of unemployment benefits get $297 a week to help them make ends meet. That can keep a family afloat during a rough transition. And it can give military spouses a little bit of time to find a job that best makes use of their skills.

What would it cost?

Not much. Virginia’s employers would see an average increase of $0.40 per employee in their contributions to the state unemployment insurance fund over the next couple of years. Forty cents. And that doesn’t take into account the local economic benefits of helping military families make ends meet. Keeping those families in the black will help stimulate local economies, creating jobs and helping local businesses. 

Virginia has the third-largest military population of any state. SB 18 gives lawmakers  the chance to help a lot of the families that have made such large sacrifices – and to make Virginia the military friendly state it aims to be. The Senate passed this much-needed change last week. It’s time for the House to do the same.

–Mitchell Cole, Research Assistant


The Commonwealth Institute

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