North Jersey lawmakers in the House are working to help veterans with job skills development, education and finding a home.
A provision authored by Rep. Josh Gottheimer was included in the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2022 (WIOA) that ensures veterans are prioritized to receive access to high-quality job training, workforce development, and career services.
Gottheimer stated these skills will help veterans transition back into civilian life, reach their career goals, and support themselves and their families.
“After serving our country and putting their lives on the line to defend our freedom and our democracy, our nation’s veterans should ever have to struggle to get the care, employment opportunities, and resources they’ve earned,” said Gottheimer. “We should always have their backs.”
The Bergen County lawmaker pointed to data that shows that the unemployment rate of veterans ages 18 to 65 is higher than the unemployment rate of nonveterans.
“But far too often, our veterans face issues finding employment,” said Gottheimer. “My provision that just passed the House will ensure veterans are prioritized to receive federal career resources, to help them transition back into civilian life, reach their career goals, and care for their families.”
Passage of WIOA
WIOA will fully fund programs by authorizing funding to allow the workforce system to train one million workers per year by 2028; expands summer and year-round jobs programs for youth; strengthens the quality of the Job Corps program; codifies partnerships between employers and community colleges to provide high-quality job training; and strengthens industry and sector partnerships to better meet the needs of both employers and job seekers.
The original WIOA expired in 2020 and the new bill reauthorize it and strengthens programs so even more Americans can access these resources and opportunities as they seek to get ahead, according to House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD).
“It is broadly recognized that closing the skills gap and expanding our trained and skilled workforce will help us fight inflation by strengthening our base of workers to make the most in-demand products right here in America and reduce our reliance on imports,” said Hoyer. “If the Senate shares our seriousness about bringing costs down for Americans while helping our workers and their families get ahead, it will join the House in reauthorizing WIOA without delay.”
Rep. Mikie Sherrill is working to improve educational opportunities for veterans by introducing the GI Bill Foreign Institution Electronic Payments Act, leading the effort to update the current GI Bill Benefit parameters after hearing from fellow vets.
“Because of a technical issue with how educational assistance payments can be transferred to universities, veterans are unable to utilize these earned benefits at certain schools they wish to attend,” said Sherrill, a Navy vet. “After hearing about this issue from veterans in my community, I am proud to introduce this legislation (to) update the VA’s payment system and broaden the educational opportunities for veterans.”
Currently, the VA’s payment system requires that, in order for institutions to receive payment, they must have an Employee Identification Number (EIN). Many foreign universities do not have EIN’s as they do not file taxes in the United States. The bill would require the VA to update its current payment system such that an EIN is no longer required for the VA to issue payment and would allow veterans to expand their horizons at universities worldwide.
Finding Homes for Vets
Additionally, an amendment from Gottheimer to support homeless veterans was unanimously approved by the house earlier in the month. The provision allows state governments to deploy federal Community Services Block Grant Program investment to support homeless veterans.
“On any given night, the federal government estimates that more than 40,000 veterans are homeless,” he said. “My amendment will add support for veterans — and in particular, homeless veterans — to the list of investments states like Jersey can make through the program.”
The bill allows Community Action Agencies to work alongside state and local agencies to raise awareness among veterans of housing programs and to secure the housing they need. Once stable housing is secured, Community Action Agencies will work with veterans and other eligible individuals to ensure the full range of community resources — including workforce training, health resources, and opportunities for peer support — are available to those veterans who need them most.
In New Jersey, the program annually serves more than 200,000 individuals and 130,000 families through the work of 25 Community Action Agencies. These Agencies are typically private nonprofit organizations, public agencies, or local government entities, like Greater Bergen Community Action, which provides education and job training, financial counseling, and more.