Military spouses received a surprise Valentine in legislative form today when Congressman John Carter (R-TX31) re-introduced the Military Spouses Employment Act into the 112th Congress.
The Carter bill will provide employers a new tax incentive to hire qualified military spouses. The bill enjoyed bipartisan support in the last Congress, including the endoresement of the Military Coalition, which includes 35 organizations representing 5.5 million members. Today's re-introduction was co-sponsored by 7 Republicans and 9 Democrats.
"This legislation will help alleviate some of the long-standing obstacles to quality jobs for military spouses," says Carter. "Far too often employers overlook military spouses in the hiring process due to concerns over family transfers. The hiring incentives in this bill should help level the playing field to allow our military spouses an equal shot at getting a civilian job."
Employment statistics show that military spouses traditionally earn less than civilians despite higher graduation rates and living in areas with better paying jobs.
In addition to improving combined income for military families, the Carter bill is also expected to improve service member retention, as research has found that the influence of military spouses on re-enlistment decisions has increased with the proportion of military spouses working outside the home.
The Military Spouses Employment Act would expand the Workforce Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to include military spouses, providing employers a tax incentive to hire qualified military spouses. Qualified spouses include all active duty military spouses, as well as spouses of National Guard and Reserve members who are activated for 90 days or more. The change would allow employers to claim an income tax credit of 40 percent for the first $6,000 in wages for qualified spouses who remain on the payroll at least 400 hours. For spouses who remain employed from 120 hours to 399 hours, employers are eligible for a tax credit of 25 percent.
Carter represents the Fort Hood, Texas area in the House, is Co-Chairman of the House Army Caucus, and Secretary of the House Republican Conference.