During a visit to Fort Liberty in North Carolina on Friday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to improve economic support for military families.
He announced the initiative alongside first lady Jill Biden as "the most comprehensive set of administrative actions in our nation's history to support the economic security of military families, veterans, spouses, caregivers and survivors."
"The most sacred obligation America has is to prepare those we send into harm's way and care for them and their families when they come home or deploy," he said in front of hundreds of service members and their families. "Today, we’re taking an important step towards fulfilling that obligation."
The order includes nearly 20 actions with three main goals outlined by the president: More flexibility, more support and more resources.
Within the flexibility component, President Biden said, are policies aimed at keeping families together. That includes encouraging federal agencies to improve remote work opportunities for military spouses and in granting leave when a partner has to make a permanent change of station.
The second goal includes improved support for military spouses seeking advice on overseas employment issues as well as legal assistance. It also requires new training for federal human resource employees who work in hiring military spouses and veterans.
As for resources, the order directs agencies to ensure military families have access to affordable, dependable child care by implementing Dependent Care Flexible Savings Accounts. This gives military families the option to get pre-tax benefits for daycare, preschool and summer camps, the president said. It also provides resources for military family members in need of a grant or loan to help start, sustain or relocate a business.
Beyond what the president explicitly mentioned Friday, the order also directs federal offices to improve hiring and retention of military families, including more federal job postings and more clearly outlined standards and practices from each office.
More than 16,000 military spouses are employed by the federal government, but overall, military spouses face a 21% unemployment rate, according to the White House. Plus, nearly 1 in 5 military families say challenges with spousal employment make them consider leaving active-duty service.
"[The president] understands that we can’t ask our service members to choose between their love of country and their love of family," first lady Jill Biden said Friday. "He knows that supporting military spouses is a national security imperative."
The Bidens, a military family themselves, have both bolstered programs involving military families before.
Jill Biden works closely with Joining Forces — a White House initiative launched by then-first lady Michelle Obama aimed at supporting the health, education and employment of military families.
And in April, 2023, the president signed an executive order to increase access to quality child care and long-term care for military families.
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