Dozens of Veterans, Service Providers & Employers Participate in Garamendi’s Roundtable Conversation on Veteran Unemployment
MARYSVILLE, CA – Today, dozens of veterans and veteran service providers met at the Yuba County Government Center to collaborate on strategies to create jobs for veterans. The Veteran Jobs Roundtable, hosted by Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), brought together representatives from employers, community colleges, local, state, and federal agencies, and non-profit organizations for a robust conversation on what can be done now to help veterans and what additional laws are necessary. The event had an emphasis on the needs of young veterans.
“We need to take action to serve those who have served us. That’s what this is all about today,” said Congressman Garamendi. “Our goal is to learn what we can do as employers and community leaders to take specific actions to help veterans.”
In his opening remarks, Congresman Garamendi highlighted one problem facing veterans entering the civilian workforce: skills learned in the military don’t necessarily transfer to required private sector credentials. Garamendi talked about a young veteran who came into his district office for help. A trained sniper, the veteran served six years in combat in Iraq. When he left the military, he had very little help in the transition, and he’s been unable to find employment. That so many veterans are slipping through the cracks and not finding gainful employment was the impetus for today’s meeting.
After Garamendi gave his opening remarks, the events’ core partners introduced themselves, gave guidance on how they are helping veterans, and explained why hiring veterans makes sense for employers. Those partners were Betty Harris, Chief, Airman & Family Readiness Center at Beale Air Force Base, Brynda Stranix, President of the Yuba-Sutter Economic Development Corporation, Bobbi Park of Sacramento Valley LINC with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Marvin King, Veteran Service Officer for Yuba & Sutter counties, Michael Hensley, President of the Student Veteran Association at Yuba Community College, Ryan Rogers, Veteran Employment Representative at the California Employment Development Department, Tom Pitock, Veteran Adviser at Yuba Community College, and Vince Kilmartin, the Northern California Representative for Troops to Teachers.
“Why hire a veteran? They’re very structured, very dependable, and very exuberant employees,” said Yuba Community College Veteran Advisor Tom Pitock.
During breakout sessions, participants divided themselves into three separate roundtable discussion groups: employers, veteran organizations, and community organizations. The discussions were designed to solicit ideas from participants on ways to incentivize and reduce barriers to hiring veterans.
A conversation that emerged at all the tables was the difficulty in making skills learned while in the service more applicable in civilian life. Military credentials for engineers and nurses, for example, don’t transfer for civilian certification. A man whose service experience was mine sweeping talked about some of his difficulties convincing employers that he was qualified for other work.
One community group leader encouraged veterans enrolling in college to bring their military service records to school administrators. Often colleges will offer credit on some coursework, even if it’s not an official policy to do so.
Additional topics addressed by groups included:
- A desire for easier access to a database of veterans looking for work;
- Support for Make It In America policies that reward employers who hire veterans;
- The need to improve VA services, since the time and health wasted during the VA’s unnecessarily long backlog for claims is a detriment to finding employment;
- Work with veterans to let them know it’s ok to “sell themselves” and be direct about the skills they bring to the table during job interviews, since veterans have largely been taught to be deferential;
- The broader lingering impact of the Great Recession on local employment;
- The scarcity of larger businesses in the Yuba-Sutter area and the need to educate small businesses about veteran hiring, because small businesses are less likely to know about tax rebates available to them;
- The fear of hiring veterans due to misperceptions of their skill sets and unwarranted fears based on the mental health impact of combat; and
- The need to bridge the gap between policymakers, service providers, and veterans.
Another reoccurring theme centered around making sure employers know what advantages exist to hire veterans. They have a work ethic forged during years of military service, and there are multiple tax incentives available to employers to hire veterans. Specifically, Garamendi’s office and participants at the Veteran Jobs Roundtable urge employers to look into the following tax credits:
- Returning Heroes Tax Credit (RHTC): Incentives for hiring an unemployed veteran – up to $5,600 (40% of the first $14,000 wages) for veterans unemployed for 6 months, or up to $2,400 (40% of the first $6,000 wages) for veterans unemployed for at least 4 weeks.
- Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC): Extended by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 and further expanded by the Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2013. Generally, the first $6,000 of wages per eligible employee generates a 40 percent credit for a maximum of $2,400 per employee.
- Wounded Warriors Tax Credit (WWTC): Incentives for hiring long-term (at least 6 months) unemployed veterans with service-connected disabilities – up to $9,600 (40% of first $24,000 wages). Veterans with services-connected disabilities maintain existing WOTC. If hired within one year of being discharged from the military the tax credit is up to $4,800 (40% of the first $12,000 wages).
- On-The-Job Training (OTJ) Credit: Allows reimbursements to the employer of:
- Up to 90% of the participant’s wage rate for employers with 50 or fewer employees;
- Up to 75% of the participant’s wage rate for employers with 51-250 employees;
- Up to 50% of the participant’s wage rate for employers with more than 250 employees.
- Enterprise Zone Hiring Tax Credit: A business located in the Yuba-Sutter Enterprise Zone may reduce its state income tax by the amount of wages paid to one or more qualified employees. Businesses have the potential to earn $37,440 or more in tax credits per qualifying employee over a five-year period.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Congressman Garamendi asked participants to join in a task force to “connect the dots” roundtable participants identified locally.
“We don’t have to worry about the entire United States here,” Congressman Garamendi concluded. “Working together, we can have a big impact here in the Yuba-Sutter region, without changing a single law. Let’s get this done.”
The event ended with a plug for the Yuba-Sutter Veterans Stand Down, which takes place August 22-24. Hundreds of veterans and service providers will be in attendance, including representatives from Congressman Garamendi’s office.
There are more than 90,000 veterans in the 3rd Congressional District. In California, 10.7% of veterans are unemployed, but the veteran unemployment rate in the 3rd District is much higher. 26.23% of veterans in Yuba County are unemployed, and 27.7% of veterans in Sutter County are unemployed.