New benefits, daycare grants and possible backpay may all be in the future for Defense Department employees, service members and contractors.
The House Armed Services Committee spent all Wednesday and into the early morning hours of Thursday marking up its version of the 2020 defense authorization bill. Also, House and Senate appropriators are working on bills to fund the government next year.
Each of those bills has nuggets of new provisions that impact employees, contractors and service members.
Federal News Network compiled a handful of them to keep you in the loop for what might come your way next year.
Under the Obama administration the Pentagon realized it was not competing well with private industry when it came to benefits, and that was costing the military some of its top talent.
One of the changes DoD made under its force of the future initiative was to open up the possibility for 12 weeks of maternity leave. Congress got the message and in 2017 authorized parental leave.
Now the House wants to make that parental leave more flexible. An amendment introduced by Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) and passed by the House Armed Services Committee lets service members take parental leave in segments, rather than all at once.
That can give families with new children an easier time when it comes to scheduling.
The military services currently offer up to 21 days of parental leave.
Backpay for contractors
The pesky shutdown that went from the end of 2018 into the beginning of 2019 is still causing issues, especially for defense contractors.
While DoD civilians got backpay from the government, contractors didn’t. Now some low-wage contractors might get a late holiday present.
House appropriators announced this week that they will fold the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Employees bill into the appropriations bills.
The wage bill gives funds to contractors who were furloughed or had their hours reduced during the shutdown. Only workers who make $965 a week or less will get backpay.
The inclusion of the bill “is an important first step to ensuring fairness and parity for the federal contracting community,” said Professional Services Council President and CEO David Berteau in a Thursday statement. “Hundreds of thousands of workers support the government through contracts, delivering services to ensure federal agencies can meet their mission needs. Enactment of this legislation would benefit the many contractor employees still facing a financial hardship brought on through no fault of their own.”
Military bases are in woeful need of more childcare providers. According to the 2018 Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey, 79% of women service members could not obtain reliable childcare last year.
Additionally, about half of the United States has too few licensed childcare options.
The House Armed Services Committee wants to study a process that may help with that issue.
An amendment introduced by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), and approved by the committee, asks DoD to submit a report regarding the feasibility of creating a grant or loan program to help cover the initial costs of meeting state licensure requirements for childcare facilities.
The report would include an assessment of areas with the longest waitlists for on-base childcare; an assessment of the availability of licensed, off-base childcare facilities in those areas and the feasibility of a program to meet up to half the costs of meeting licensure requirements.
The report would be due by June 1, 2020.
Having trouble getting DoD to pay for a course you want to take? Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ (R-Tenn.) amendment may change the way the Pentagon looks at accredited schools.
The amendment, which was approved by the House Armed Services Committee, wants DoD to take into account that nontraditional schooling through online courses or less orthodox educational establishments may still be beneficial.
“The committee understands that new and innovative educational opportunities exist for service members through non-traditional forms of schooling such as technology boot camps or massive online open courses,” the amendment states.
However, not all of those opportunities are accredited and therefore covered by tuition assistance.
“The committee believes that such standards should be mindful of the rapidly evolving nature of modern educational services,” the amendment states.
The amendment would require DoD to send a report to Congress outlining the standards an educational institution must meet for tuition assistance.
The report requires DoD show the steps that have been taken into account for the changes in modern learning platforms and recommendations for expanding educational opportunities available to military personnel.