Supporting Maryland's more than 440,000 veterans, and reducing unemployment within this invaluable community, is one of our highest priorities as a state. After facing so many barriers to protect us in the U.S. and abroad, these individuals should never come home and face barriers to supporting themselves and their families.
That's why the Veteran's Full Employment Act is so important. It allows us to do right by our veterans and their families by making sure we remove barriers to employment here at home.
Today, I met with members of our veteran community--veterans, employers, and representatives of the agencies and organizations that support our servicemen and women--to update them on our progress implementing VFEA. Cabinet heads from across state government talked about what we're doing to overcome barriers to employment in Maryland, for both veterans and military families. These Marylanders all have skills, experience, and training in demand by Maryland employers. By breaking down these barriers, we are not only doing right by our veterans, but we are also making our economy stronger by tapping into these skills. Every single person--and every person's talent--is needed in order to create jobs and expand opportunity.
I also shared with the group the new Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs website, which is designed to be a streamlined source of information for veterans and their families in Maryland. This new site will allow our veterans to find all the information they need about jobs, benefits, health care, financial assistance, and every resource Maryland has to offer, in one convenient place.
While the veteran unemployment rate--in Maryland and around the country--remains slightly lower than the overall unemployment rate, we have an obligation to ensure that all of our Maryland veterans have employment opportunities when they return home from service. The Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs continues to work, in partnership with its sister agencies, toward reaching our goal to fully employ veterans in Maryland by 2015:
MDVA maintains an email distribution list of almost 15,000 residents and Veterans in Maryland and through collaborations with local employers, job openings are being shared via email with Veterans across the State;
Over the last five years, the O'Malley-Brown Administration has provided $5.1 million in funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Scholarship Program to help veterans attain their educational goals and enhance their ability to gain employment;
Since FY10, through Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development, we've provided $775,000 in funding for the Military Personnel and Veteran-Owned Small Business No-Interest Loan Program; and,
Our Vet Stat- quarterly meetings tracks our efforts and holds agencies accountable for accomplishing these goals;
As we move forward as a State, we're doing everything we can to coordinate services, problem-solve, and communicate with one another to better serve Maryland's veterans.