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Senators take action to assist the nation’s 12M military spouses

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U.S. military spouses, one of the highest unemployed demographics, could receive new support to start and operate small businesses under legislation pending in the Senate.

U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., recently introduced the Military Spouse Entrepreneurship Act of 2023 to develop a training program at the Small Business Administration to help military spouses launch small businesses.

Tillis is in his second term serving North Carolina, home to nine military installations including the nation’s largest at Fort Liberty. The Old North State has the fourth-highest number of active-duty military members among states at nearly 100,000, according to a 2021 Department of Defense demographics report released in December.

Data from the Military Spouse Chamber of Commerce says there are more than 12 million military spouses nationally – about 1 million with active duty and 11.2 million veteran spouses – with an unemployment rate “statistically unchanged from 2012-2019 at rates of 22-24% before the pandemic with estimates as high as 38% during COVID-19.”

A survey of 4,118 military spouses conducted last year on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found 88% of respondents agree or strongly agree that the military lifestyle impacts their ability to find jobs at their experience or education level, while 90% agree military service negatively impacted their careers.

“I have always been a strong advocate for increasing employment opportunities for military spouses who serve our country by supporting their husband or wife, including those who hope to start their own small business,” Tillis said. “I am proud to co-introduce this legislation to create a training program to expand career opportunities wherever military families are stationed.”

The Military Spouse Entrepreneurship Act would build on resources currently available to military spouses through the Small Business Administration that include free counseling, training and education, as well as a variety of loan programs and online services.

The bill, which follows other efforts by the House and Biden administration to address the high rate of unemployment among military spouses, is backed by the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs, the Center for American Entrepreneurship, Instant Teams, VetsinTech, and the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council.

“We applaud the leadership of Senator Klobuchar and Senator Tillis for acting to provide critically needed resources to military spouses to better enable them to start companies and become entrepreneurs,” said Erica McMannes, co-founder of Instant Teams, a North Carolina-based employment agency for military spouses.

“As trailblazers and industry leaders in connecting military spouses with opportunity we know first-hand about the many challenges confronting military spouses who wish to start businesses and begin careers,” McMannes said. “This legislation will provide real support to our military families and in so doing will not only strengthen our military but also our national economy.”

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