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Movers unload household goods during delivery as the Navy continues to support servicemembers throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
Movers unload household goods during delivery as the Navy continues to support servicemembers throughout the COVID-19 crisis. (Russell Stewart/U.S. Navy)

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WASHINGTON – A bill introduced Friday would provide some financial relief during the coronavirus pandemic to some military families whose moves were halted by the Defense Department’s stop-movement order.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper ordered the first travel restrictions in March and later extended the stop-movement order for all service members and their families until June 30. Tens of thousands of military moves that were planned have been paused and families who had already signed a new lease at their next location have been stuck paying for two homes.

The bill introduced by Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., would amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to include stop-movement orders as a reason to terminate a lease. The legislation was introduced with the leadership of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Reps. Mark Takano, D-Calif., and Phil Roe, R-Tenn.

A similar bill was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday by Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., leadership of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

“Service members are prepared to sacrifice for our country, but they should never suffer significant personal financial losses as a result of following orders,” Levin said in a prepared statement. “While I appreciate the Defense Department’s efforts to keep servicemembers safe during this pandemic, it’s unacceptable that some military families have been forced to pay for a second home that they can’t even move into due to the stop-movement order.”

The update would allow service members who are moving and have signed a lease for a home or business to terminate that lease if a stop-movement order for more than 30 days is issued and they are unable to occupy the property. The change also applies to vehicle leases.

The bill also retroactively applies to stop-movement orders issued on or after March 1, allowing relief for military families struggling now because of the pandemic.

“No servicemember or their family should have to worry about whether they will face an added financial burden because of the stop-movement order DoD put in place to stop the spread of [the coronavirus],” Roe said in the prepared statement. “By allowing them to cancel a lease for a new car or house without penalty, this legislation would give them the flexibility and peace of mind they need during these trying times.”

kenney.caitlin@stripes.com Twitter: @caitlinmkenney

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