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Bustos introduces new bill to help veterans

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Hoping to prevent the expiration of job-creating tax credits, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, introduced legislation on Wednesday that would also expand those tax credits.

Bustos, the first term Democrat representing the 17th District, which includes much of Peoria, introduced the Jobs For Heroes Act that would keep two federal business tax credits set to expire at the end of the year, credits that are designed to spur job creation for veterans.

"Our brave veterans deserve our full support and that starts with making sure they have access to good-paying jobs when they return home," Bustos said in introducing the legislation. "The unemployment rate for our veterans remains far too high. Democrats and Republicans should work together to renew and expand this job-creation tool that puts our veterans to work and provides our businesses with talented, skilled and dedicated workers."

Bustos met with veterans last month during what she called a "Standing Up for Our Veterans" tour throughout the 17th District and learned that high unemployment among young veterans was at the top of a variety of concerns expressed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 have an unemployment rate of 20.4 percent, which is five percentage points higher than non-veterans of the same age range.

"I'm leading this new effort to help connect veterans to jobs and economic opportunity in their communities," Bustos said. "It is common sense to not only extend these effective tax credits, but to provide additional incentives to businesses who are willing to be our partners in this effort."

According to her office the Jobs for Heroes Act would:

  • Extend and expand the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to make the credit permanent and available to businesses, both small and large, that hire veterans, members of the National Guard, or Ready Reservists. Currently, the tax credit is only available to businesses that hire certain veterans with economic or physical difficulties.
  • Extend and expand the Employer Wage Credit (EWC) to make the tax credit permanent and available to all businesses, both large and small. Currently, this tax credit is only available to small businesses. When National Guard members or Reservists are called up to active duty, their civilian jobs and salaries are placed on hiatus and they begin receiving military pay. If their civilian salary was higher, the civilian employer might voluntarily provide differential pay to the individual to make up for this pay gap and in return, claim a tax credit of up to 20 percent of the difference.

Other issues discussed during her "Standing up for our Veterans" tour, which began in Pekin, included the growing Veterans Administration claims backlog, making sure education and job training programs remain affordable and accessible, and ending veterans' homelessness. Also during the tour Bustos visited the Peoria Air National Guard Base, held veterans' homelessness roundtables in Rockford and Peoria, conducted a "Cheri on Shift" at the Sterling VA Clinic, participated in the "Veterans History Project" by interviewing a WWII veteran in Galesburg, and spoke at several veterans recognition ceremonies throughout Veterans Day weekend.

Bustos has made veterans a top priority during her first term. In August, she joined with Republican Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania to introduce a bipartisan bill that would help put veterans back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, tunnels and rail lines. It's called the Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act.