In an effort to provide those serving in the armed forces with the full housing benefits of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-8) today voted in support of bipartisan legislation that expands housing benefits to uniformed service members and other federal employees.
"This bill comes at a time when our service members are exhausted and challenged with the dual strain of war and economic strife," said Pascrell in a speech he gave today on the House of Representatives floor. "This body stands tallest when it stands together for our service members. Congress should do everything we can to ensure that our service members are also able to take full advantage of the programs we enact to benefit all Americans."
The Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act of 2009 (H.R. 3590), which Pascrell co-sponsored with many of his colleagues on the House Ways and Means Committee, fills in gaps left by the federal stimulus with regard to housing benefits and tax obligations to military personnel and other federal employees. The measure passed the House today by a vote of 416-0.
The ARRA provided an $8,000 first-time homebuyer credit in connection with a home purchased before Dec. 1, 2009. The credit has already provided tax benefits to 1.4 million families. Under the conditions of the ARRA, the credit must be paid pack to the government if the house is sold or ceases to be the purchaser's principle residence within three years of the purchase.
However, the Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act of 2009 provides an additional year of eligibility for the $8,000 first-time homebuyer credit for members of the uniformed services, Foreign Service of the United States, or the U.S. intelligence community who served more than 90 days of active duty outside of the United States in 2009. The bill also exempts deployed service members from paying back the $8,000 first-time homebuyer credit if a home had to be sold as a result of extended duty.
"Brave men and women serving in our nation's armed forces shouldn't be denied a chance to own their own home because their deployment made it impossible to make the government's deadline," said Pascrell, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee who co-sponsored the legislation. "This bill is a practical solution to make sure that those in uniform are getting the same chance at homeownership under the federal stimulus as civilians. It also makes sure that people who had to sell their home because they were called to active duty don't get saddled with an unnecessary penalty."
The Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act of 2009 also provides a tax exemption to military personnel who received Homeowner's Assistance Program benefits that were expanded to veterans under the federal stimulus.