Today, outside my Washington office, I met with Pittsburgh residents Murry and Cindy Gerber as they stopped in Washington as part of their coast-to-coast tour to highlight the capabilities of natural gas vehicles.
The Gerbers show that Pennsylvania ingenuity and advocacy can create new solutions to meet our challenges. Increased use of natural gas-powered vehicles can create jobs in Pennsylvania and decrease our dependence on foreign oil. Especially as oil and gasoline prices have risen, reducing the demand for foreign oil can be a win-win for the Pennsylvania economy and for consumers. Natural gas is cleaner burning than gasoline and is a Pennsylvania resource. Converting vehicles, especially commercial vehicles, to run on natural gas could create new industry and new jobs in Pennsylvania.
The federal government should encourage public-private partnerships to spur growth in industries that use natural gas to create jobs and reduce the demand for foreign oil. However, we must ensure that natural gas extraction is done in a way that protects our local communities and their drinking water.
Today on Military Spouse Appreciation Day, I would like to take a moment to honor those who are often unsung heroes of our nation. Military spouses deserve not only our thanks but our support. As leaders and as citizens, we must do what we can to assist these spouses and families who sacrifice everyday to protect this country.
Earlier this year, I introduced the Military Spouse Job Continuity Act. As active duty service members move due to a Permanent Change of Station their spouses are often required to change jobs and apply for a new professional license, costing the family several hundred dollars. This legislation will give the spouse a tax credit of up to $500 when a family moves and the spouse is required to renew or transfer their license.
I also introduced the Military Spouse Employment Programs Evaluation Act of 2011. This legislation would require the Secretary of Defense to annually evaluate DOD programs to help spouses find employment. There are several DOD sponsored spouse employment programs, but this bill would require the DOD to ensure those programs are serving their intended purpose, and act as effectively as they can.
I am happy to have the support of the Blue Star Families on these efforts. This important organization puts the sacrifices of military families at the forefront. So on this Military Spouse Appreciation Day, please take a moment to honor both those who serve and those who support them, without which their service would not be possible.
As a long-time supporter of programs that help military families, I am pleased that the Department of Veterans Affairs will now begin implementation of the Family Caregiver Program of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010. This program will provide more support to eligible post-September 11th Veterans who choose to receive their care at home from a primary Family Caregiver. Providing Veterans and servicemembers with the opportunity to remain at home under the care of their Family Caregivers is just one of the many ways that we can thank servicemembers and their families for their unwavering dedication.
Beginning on May 9th, eligible Veterans will be able to apply for inclusion in this program, which will provide them with a stipend, mental health services, and access to health insurance. Family caregivers, furthermore, will undergo Comprehensive Caregiver training and receive medical support. Program applications can be found at caregiver.va.gov. In order to assist Veterans and their Family Caregivers with the application process, Caregiver Support Coordinators can also be reached by phone at 1-877-222- VETS (8387).
As I am a Member of the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee and the Chair of the Subcommittee on Hunger, Nutrition and Family Farms, I know that by supporting Pennsylvania farmers we can also provide nutritious, fresh food for Pennsylvania’s growing children and for all of our residents. With over 1.2 million citizens in Pennsylvania at risk for hunger, we need to ensure this food is available to them.
Low-income Pennsylvanians enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will soon have greater access to fresh, locally grown produce at farmers market stands across Pennsylvania, while supporting local farmers at the same time. SNAP, a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service, puts healthy food on the tables of more than 40 million Americans each month. Pennsylvania's agriculture department facilitates the national program, in addition to several other food programs, through the Bureau of Food Distribution. Pennsylvanians can apply for SNAP benefits using the online application COMPASS, or by filing an application at a local county assistance office.
Farmers markets or farm stands can apply for one of the 145 wireless machines that are being made available with a federal grant through the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Machines will be available on a first come-first served basis. The grant funding is made possible by the Farmers Market Promotion Program, which was reauthorized in the 2008 Farm Bill.
Applications are available at http://agriculture.state.pa.us by searching "EBT Wireless Terminal Application" or from Heidi Crager at 717-787-4956. The machines can also be used for credit card purchases, and training will be offered by the company providing the devices. Card-readers will be distributed until gone. Completed applications can be sent to the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Food Distribution, 2301 N. Cameron Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110.
Every year, thousands of servicemembers are given orders to relocate themselves and their families in service of our country. Change of Station (PCS) orders often place heavy financial and psychological burdens on the spouses and families of our servicemembers. When these servicemembers transfer stations, their spouses are faced with the possibility of losing their jobs. We no longer live in times where a single income is enough for most families, including military families.
Yet, military families do not complain and continue to relocate time after time.
In order to ease the financial burden that PCS orders can impose upon these families, today I reintroduced the Military Spouses Job Continuity Act. This bill would help those spouses more easily re-enter the workforce after a PCS order by offering a tax credit of up to $500 to any military spouse who has to renew or transfer a professional license due to a Change of Station.
When the National Military Families Association surveyed military spouses about employment challenges, 39% of military families had experienced a financial setback in 2010. Of those who experienced a financial setback, 32% identified that their family had made a PCS move and that the spouse had lost a job.
This legislation recognizes the sacrifices that both national and Pennsylvanian military families make. Together with the support of the National Military Family Association, Blue Star Families of America, the National Guard Association of the United States, and the Reserve Officers Association, I look forward to supporting the well-being of our servicemembers and their families. I believe that assisting military families is critical to maintaining a highly effective force.