Peters, Murkowski Lead Bipartisan Effort to Support Veteran Workforce Development During COVID-19 Pandemic

Bill to Extend Apprenticeship GI Bill benefits for Veterans Who Face Unemployment Due to Pandemic, Call on Congressional Leadership to Support Veterans in Next Coronavirus Package

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today announced a bipartisan effort to support veteran workforce development during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The senators introduced bipartisan legislation to extend GI Bill benefits for veterans whose registered apprenticeships were cut short or ended due to COVID-19. Currently, veterans must meet a minimum number of apprenticeship hours to receive their full Monthly Housing Allowance. However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many registered apprenticeships have ended or been cut short – resulting in veterans facing a reduction or suspension in their stipend due to not meeting the required hours. The legislation introduced today would extend the benefit for up to 120 days and would allow veteran apprentices who were laid off to roll over excess hours from a previous month if necessary to meet the hourly requirement.

Peters and Murkowski additionally called on Congressional leadership to ensure the next Coronavirus relief package supports veterans during this pandemic. In their letter, the lawmakers outlined a number of economic and employment priorities that must be addressed. The full letter can be found by clicking HERE.

“Veterans shouldn’t lose the benefits they’ve earned through their service as a result of this pandemic,” said Senator Peters, a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. “Veterans use GI Bill benefits to receive apprenticeship trainings and put their unique skillsets towards a good-paying job. I’m proud to introduce bipartisan legislation to ensure veterans will continue to receive critical GI Bill support during this pandemic. One of my top priorities has been – and will continue being – expanding apprenticeship opportunities for veterans and supporting them as they transition back to civilian life.”

“A number of industries in Alaska depend on apprenticeships and on-the-job training to educate their future employees, including a number of America’s veterans. Due to COVID-19, many traditional education programs have shifted to using online platforms, but unfortunately, on-the-job training and apprenticeships are typically difficult to move to online. This leaves veterans at risk of not being able to meet certain training requirements needed to maintain eligibility to receive GI Bill benefits and stipend. To help alleviate these hardships, Senator Peters and I have crafted a bill that aims to assist veterans and transitioning service members who are using their GI Bill benefits for nontraditional educational programs,” said Senator Murkowski. “As we work to address the financial and employment impacts of this pandemic, we cannot allow our veterans to be left behind.”

“The Union Veterans Council, AFL-CIO (UVC), commends Senator Peters and Senator Murkowski for their bipartisan leadership to protect veterans and transitioning servicemembers from the fallout associated with the coronavirus,” said Union Veterans Council (UVC) Executive Director Will Attig. “As a country, we have a responsibility to ensure that veterans and military families are able to live the American Dream they served to protect. This measure would close a loophole in the GI Bill and would ensure these heroes stay secure and maintain their livelihoods despite everything else this pandemic has thrown at them. We encourage the Senate to pass this bill immediately.”

“One of the key benefits to veterans and their families who use their GI Bill funding to learn a skilled trade through Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeships or on-the-job training opportunities is the ability for a veteran to receive a graduated monthly housing allowance in addition to some cases of funding for the training,” said Rick Donovan, State Legislative Officer of the Polish Legion of American Veterans Department of Michigan. “This housing benefit is critical to transitioning service members or veterans and dependents using the GI Bill to learn a trade and skillsets towards meaningful employment and journeyperson status. I know it made a difference for me when I learned my craft over 26 years ago in a registered apprenticeship helping me to become a union sheet metal worker. At no fault of their own due to COVID-19, many apprentices and those in currently approved on-the-job training weren't able to work the hours needed to be in receipt of these housing stipends because of stay home orders or jobs being shut down as states figured out a safe way to approach work due to the pandemic. The legislation brings federally-approved registered apprenticeships and on-the-job training in line with what the Congress, the Senate and President did for veterans and their housing stipends who went from University and Community College physical learning environments to an online platform.”

The bill would ensure that individuals who were laid off while using GI Bill for a registered apprenticeship continue to receive the benefit for up to 120 days. It would also ensure their period of unemployment does not count against their duration of entitlement, as this benefit is normally reduced every six months. In other words, up to 120 days of being unemployed would not be considered as part of their eligibility window. The bill would also allow individuals to roll over training hours in excess of 120 from a previous month if they were short of the 120 apprenticeship hours required for the full benefit. The bill is retroactive to March 1st.

Related Issues: Veterans, COVID-19 Resource Page