First Look

Bipartisan coalition of lawmakers steps in to help military families paying two rents due to stop move order

A bipartisan coalition of 35 lawmakers and a handful of defense advocacy groups are calling on the Defense Department to do more for military families financially strapped by the Pentagon’s stop move order, according to a letter first obtained by Federal News Network.

The  bipartisan-supported letter started by Rep. Debra Haaland (D-N.M.), the group urges Defense Secretary Mark Esper to support military families forced to take on monetary costs because they cannot move to their next permanent changes of station (PCS).

The letter asks DoD to issue “guidance and resources needed to ensure care and support to every military member and family adversely affected by this order.”

The letter goes on to say, “We strongly urge you to issue guidance allowing commanders to use the greatest possible breadth of relief options for these families and to further empower commanders to coordinate with traditional and non-traditional partners that may rapidly address the needs of these families.”

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Those include commands, military family support organizations, charities, non-profits, state and local governments, community support efforts and all available relief funds.

The lawmakers say the grants and loans afforded to military families through the service relief funds are not enough to help families in this situation.

“Under current policy, Army families are limited to a maximum of $1,500 to offset their expenses while they wait to PCS,” the letter states. “Given the scope of the problem, we are concerned about the limited capacity installation commanders and organizations like the Airmen and Family Readiness Centers have to address these claims. This unparalleled order issued to save lives has led to an unparalleled need for assistance, critically straining the staff and resources available and inevitably resulting in long delays before relief reaches military families.”

DoD announced its stop movement order in March in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The 60-day order keeps troops from moving to their next domestic orders and from coming home from overseas assignments.

However, according to a Blue Star Families Pain Points survey, one in five military families are reporting they are or will be paying rent in two locations due to the order.

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“I think the PCS move numbers are going to get worse before they get better,” Kathy Roth Douquet, CEO and co-founder of Blue Star Families told Federal News Network. “In some cases someone else has been promised to move into these places. That’s going to be a rolling problem for a few months until we figure this out.”

The study found 6% of service members do not have housing because of delayed PCS.

“We sold our home and now our PCS has been put on hold,” one respondent told Blue Star Families. “We have three high-risk people in our family and will soon be homeless or face massive Airbnb costs or hotel costs that we cannot afford. We also have nowhere to move our belongings and no one to do it because the movers are no longer allowed to come.”