Food insecurity has long been a topic of discussion in military communities, with many citing low income levels as pressing issues for families.
Now the House has proposed a bill to help provide additional aid to low income military families.
Bill in US House Calls for More Aid to Low Income Military Families
The proposal was created by the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee focusing on personnel. Proposed supports are aimed at assisting junior enlisted families who make less than 130% of the federal threshold, which amounts to $26,200 per year for a family of four.
Right now, an E1 with more than 4 months of service makes $20,796 annually before taxes. This number reflects basic pay and does not include BAH, special duty pay, hazard pay or combat pay.
A 3% pay raise for all troops is included in the amendment. This is backed by the White House and would increase junior enlisted paychecks by about $780 per year. This would increase E1 pay to $21,576 per year; this falls $4,624 below the poverty threshold for a family of four.
The personnel subcommittee has also proposed additional supports for military families meeting the federal poverty threshold. Military families meeting these guidelines generally qualify for SNAP and other support programs.
Under the proposed policy, low income military families would also receive additional monetary supports, amounting to approximately $400 per month. These funds would be earmarked for basic needs like food, clothing and toiletries.
Easier Access to 24/7 Child Care Included in Proposal
Among the other supports included in the personnel subcommittee’s recommendations are policies that aim to make child care easier to access for military families.
For families at installations were 24/7 shifts are required, the bill would require that the DOD make care available at all times. In addition, an on-base housing priority for military spouses who pledge to provide home-based daycare is proposed.
EFMP Practices Standardized in New Bill
Many families have long had issues with the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), a DOD-created organization designed to make moving with dependents requiring additional medical care or education supports easier. As of 2020, this program is not standardized across the DOD. Instead each service operates their own EFMP organization independent of the others.
The new policy proposal would require the EFMP services be standardized across the DOD to ensure equitable access and support for all families, regardless of branch of service or location.
White House Opposes Low Income Support Suggestions
President Donald Trump opposed similar measures in last year’s defense spending authorization bill. The final policy did not include social supports for low income military families.
The White House believes that junior enlisted pay is equal to or greater than compensation received by civilians with similar job experience, education and within the same age range.
While Trump has signaled that he would veto this year’s spending bill over other issues, including renaming bases to remove Confederate connections and banning racist symbols on base, he has yet to make a formal statement regarding these additional proposals. Given past statements opposing similar measures, support from the White House on the 2021 spending bill is uncertain.