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Sen. Tim Kaine and Rep Elaine Luira, D-Norfolk, discuss a recent helicopter tour of Hampton Roads Coast Guard operations.

Sen. Tim Kaine and Rep Elaine Luira, D-Norfolk, discuss a recent helicopter tour of Hampton Roads Coast Guard operations. (Dave Ress, Daily Press/TNS)

(Tribune News Service) — Military spouses’ unemployment rate is roughly three times the national joblessness percentage, and Sen. Tim Kaine thinks a tax break might be the way to help.

He’s leading a bipartisan group introducing a bill to add military spouses to the list of 10 groups who can win a work opportunity tax credit for firms that hire them.

That tax credit is equal to 40% of first year wages.

“Congress has a responsibility to take care of our service members, veterans, and their families,” Kaine said.

“That means helping America’s talented military spouses, who consistently make enormous sacrifices for our safety and security, access a wide range of work opportunities.”

Some 12% of the nation’s roughly 480,000 military spouses are unemployed and actively seeking work, the National Conference of State Legislatures estimates. The national unemployment rate is 3.8%.

Since members of the active duty military move frequently — sometimes as often as every two years — military spouses can have a hard time finding work. Landing in a new town is one challenge, while some employers are nervous about hiring individuals who might not be able to stay indefinitely.

“The military spouse unemployment rate has remained too high for too long. When military spouses can’t find work, it’s a problem for their family’s financial stability and wellbeing,” said Besa Pinchotti, executive director and CEO of the National Military Family Association.

The work opportunity tax credit is meant to encourage employers to take a risk and hire members of groups that often struggle to get jobs, including parents in welfare-to-work programs, veterans, people with disabilities and ex-felons.

Retired Air Force Lt. General Dana Atkins said the challenges military spouses face in the job market is a national security issue, too.

More than a third of military families cite spouse employment challenges as a reason for leaving active duty, said Atkins, who is president and CEO of the Military Officers Association of America.

“Military spouses make tremendous sacrifices for our country yet continue to face significant burdens when it comes to employment opportunities,” he said.

Joining Kaine in introducing the tax credit bill are Senators John Boozman, R-Arizona, Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, and Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-New York, is introducing a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

dress@dailypress.com

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