Office of Rep. Marilyn Strickland announcement.
Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced legislation to advance contracting opportunities for military spouse-owned businesses. Supporting military spouse employment is not only the right thing to do, it helps the military remain a competitive place to serve. This legislation has been endorsed by the U.S. Military Spouse Chamber of Commerce. Original cosponsors of the bill include Representatives Gwen Moore (WI-04) and André Carson (IN-07). Please find the bill text here.
“Military spouses step up in service to our nation in many meaningful ways, but employment discrimination, lack of adequate or affordable child care, the pandemic, and other challenges continue to take a toll on their ability to stay employed. It is only right that we ensure resources are available for those who serve, and their families, to support themselves. By helping military spouses thrive, this legislation is giving military families the support they deserve and building an inclusive economy for our communities,” said Congresswoman Strickland.
“24% of military spouses were unemployed during the last decade, but COVID-19 created crisis-level unemployment at nearly 40%. The average American household requires dual incomes to survive. It’s due time military spouses are recognized as a government contracting set-aside so they can compete for business in their own backyard,” said Jaime Chapman, COO & Co-Founder, U.S. Military Spouse Chamber of Commerce.
According to a Blue Star Families annual survey of military families, in 2019, military spouses faced a 24% unemployment rate, with almost 77% reporting underemployment. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this number has only increased – a report from the National Military Spouse Network found that the unemployment rate was 25% for military spouses in 2021. According to the Washington State Employment Security Department, 56 percent of military spouses report being underemployed, and military spouses earn 27 percent less on average than their non-military spouse peers.
The Military Spouse Entrepreneurs Act would help bridge the unemployment gap and support military spouse entrepreneurs by giving them an advantage in competing for federal contracts. Specifically, the Military Spouse Entrepreneurs Act would create a 5-year federal contracting pilot program for military spouse-owned small businesses. It would also require the Small Business Administration to submit a report to Congress at the conclusion of the program with data on the number of businesses who participated in the program; the effectiveness of the program; whether the federal government’s goal of awarding 5% of all federal contracting dollars to military spouse owned businesses was met each year the program was in effect; data on oversight of the pilot program; recommendations for improvements to the pilot program and whether to make the program permanent.
Strickland is a strong advocate for service members and their families, defense communities, and veterans in Congress. In December, Strickland and Rep. Young led a bipartisan letter urging the Appropriations Committee to raise the base pay for service members. Strickland co-led the introduction of the bipartisan Military Hunger Prevention Act to help low-income military families living with food insecurity make ends meet. In July, Strickland secured inclusion of $75 million in funding for DCIP in the FY22 Defense Appropriations bill. In June, Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland co-led the entire bipartisan Washington House delegation in sending a letter urging the US Department of Veterans Affairs to take immediate action to resolve the systemic issues plaguing the veterans’ health care system. In May, Strickland made a statement to the Veterans Affairs Committee, to shine a light on the delays and communications breakdowns that veterans living in Washington’s 10th Congressional District are experiencing through the VHA’s Community Care program. In March, Strickland co-led a letter to President Biden urging a boost in funding for the Defense Community Infrastructure Program (DCIP), which would enable investments to enhance military family quality of life, resilience, or military value – including at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. She also led her fellow Korean American Members of Congress in introducing legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Colonel Young Oak Kim in recognition of his extraordinary heroism, leadership, and humanitarianism.