Congressman John Rutherford, R-Florida, is spearheading an effort to bring more workforce training to returning veterans.
The measure would create a matching grant program housed in the Department of Veteran Affairs.
Military veteran Robert McGregor said when he returned home after his last deployment, he found it impossible to find a job — his 26 years of experience notwithstanding.
“I don't say this lightly when I say that programs like Operation New Uniform change lives,” he said. “I sent out hundreds, if not thousands, of job applications. [ I ] did not get one interview. I could not figure out why.”
McGregor is gainfully employed now and he credits an intensive job training course created by Operation New Uniform with his success.
Veteran unemployment has decreased significantly over the last few years. Still, the total veteran unemployment rate still sits above five percent and underemployment remains a difficult problem to solve. That compares to a 4.2 unemployment rate for the general population in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Rutherford said although the proposed grant program will only allocate $5 million for more initiatives like Operation New Uniform’s, it has the potential to help hundreds of veterans like McGregor nationwide.
“These are going to be matching dollars that communities will have to pull together and actually apply for. So, it’s not $5 million — if they do a 50 percent match — it’s going to be $10 million,” he said.
Rutherford said grants could be used for job and interview training, recruitment and other services that help veterans get well-paying jobs.
Fellow area Congressman Al Lawson, D-Florida, is co-sponsoring the bill.