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GI Bill expansion

Published (3/30/2012)
By Nick Busse
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Minnesota’s unemployment rate for veterans returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan hangs at 23 percent — reportedly the third-highest rate in the country. A proposal headed for the House floor is intended to help put the state’s veterans back to work.

Rep. Carolyn McElfatrick (R-Deer River) sponsors HF2909 that would expand the state’s GI Bill program, which provides education benefits for post-9/11 veterans and certain family members. The bill would provide financial assistance for apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs.

The House Ways and Means Committee approved the bill March 29. Its language has also been amended into HF2958, sponsored by Rep. Mary Liz Holberg (R-Lakeville). Both bills await action on the House floor.

Speaking at a March 28 hearing, McElfatrick said Minnesota already has a substantial number of veterans, and that with the draw-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan, more are expected soon. She said these young men and women are currently at a competitive disadvantage in the civilian job market.

“Many of these military folks joined up shortly after high school, without much work experience, and others have had multiple deployments, which seriously impacts their work history,” she said.

Under the provisions, eligible individuals could receive up to $2,000 for either an apprenticeship or on-the-job training. Employers would be eligible for a $1,000 job placement credit for each hire, and another $1,000 after they have employed the individual full-time for 12 consecutive months.

The proposal is similar to a plan offered by Gov. Mark Dayton in his supplemental budget request. Funding would come from the GI Bill’s current appropriation, which officials say is underutilized.

Sen. Mike Parry (R-Waseca) sponsors the companion, SF2488. Sen. Claire Robling (R-Jordan) sponsors SF2469, the companion to Holberg’s bill. Both await action by the Senate Finance Committee.

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