Virginia Lawmakers Approve Bill Providing Jobless Benefits for Military Spouses

The Virginia General Assembly approved legislation last week granting unemployment benefits to military spouses forced to leave their jobs after their spouse is reassigned.

“It means that an individual whose spouse has orders to transfer someplace else doesn’t have to feel as though, ‘OK, I have a choice to stay with my family or keep my job,'” Sen. Mamie Locke (D) told the Virginian-Pilot. “They can feel more comfortable in making that transfer knowing that until they find a job in their new location, they will be able to qualify for unemployment benefits,” Locke said.

The Virginia House voted 91-2 to pass the legislation; the Senate passed the bill unanimously, 40-0. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) plans to sign the legislation, according to his spokesman.

DOD estimates that approximately 485 Virginians each year would take advantage of the benefit.

A similar bill was enacted in 2009, but after the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce opposed it, a provision was added that required federal funding for the benefits, rendering the measure extraneous, Locke said.

This year, significant changes allowed the chamber to support the legislation. Trailing military spouses will qualify for benefits only if they move to states with a similar law. Also, the benefits now will be funded through the state’s unemployment insurance pool, which all businesses in Virginia pay into, rather than just spouses’ employers.

Dan Cohen
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