Governor Quinn today attended a Hiring Our Heroes job fair and praised the event as a key tool to help Veterans return to work and showcase tax incentives available to businesses who choose to hire our returning heroes. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Department of Employment Security were the principal sponsors of the second annual Chicago event.
"Our Veterans defended our country and now they deserve our help as they transition into the workforce," Governor Quinn said. "These brave men and women offer valuable skills to Illinois employers, and this effort is a good way to connect them quickly to jobs that are available."
More than 1,000 jobseekers seized the opportunity to interview with the more than 100 Chicago-area businesses that participated in the career expo. Sponsors of the event include the Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve, U.S. Department of Labor, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Student Veterans of America and Operation Support our Troops.
"Hiring Our Heroes launched last year in Chicago with more than a hundred veterans and military spouses securing jobs and we haven't looked back since," Lt. Col. (Ret.) Kevin Schmiegel, founder and executive director of the Chamber's Hiring Our Heroes program and a 20-year Marine veteran, said. "Now more than 9,000 have been hired through our program, and Governor Quinn is helping to kick off our second year goal of 400 hiring fairs nationwide. We are helping move the needle on the high rates of unemployment facing post 9-11 veterans and military spouses."
Veterans are sought-after employees for their service training, which includes respect for authority, embracing responsibility and success operating in a team-based environment. Servicemembers also have advanced training in technology, manufacturing, construction and logistics.
A state income tax credit of up to $1,200 is available to businesses for each qualified Veteran who is hired. Governor Quinn has proposed extending and increasing the Hiring Veterans Tax Credit to spur additional economic growth. Employers may also qualify for a federal tax credit of up to $9,600 through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.
In 2011, the IDES provided re-employment services to more than 45,000 Veterans. Nationally, the unemployment rate for Veterans post 9-11 remains higher than the general population.
"More than 500 employees at the Department of Employment Security are Veterans, so we know the value of their leadership, training and dedication," IDES Director Jay Rowell said. "We also know the special bond soldiers have for each other. That is why we have a special team of Veterans whose sole purpose is to match fellow soldiers with current job openings."
Governor Quinn has championed Veterans and servicemembers throughout his career. In 2011, he signed legislation to ensure Veteran-owned businesses are able to compete for state contracts. Among other accomplishments, as Lt. Governor, Quinn launched the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to the families of Illinois National Guard members and reservists called to active duty. To date, this fund has helped 25,000 family members of Illinois veterans by raising $13 million for their families, and has been replicated in 35 states.
"Veterans are among our nation's most proven and committed public servants," Director of Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Erica Borggren said. "They are a tremendous resource for Illinois companies, and I'm encouraged to see so many employers actively seeking to hire these heroes."
Illinois has added more than 130,000 jobs since January 2010 when job growth returned to Illinois after 23 consecutive months of declines. Since the recovery began in January 2010, Illinois has averaged 4,000 new jobs each month. The state's unemployment rate has fallen for six consecutive months, even as more individuals return to the labor force to seek work.