Military stop move order leaves service members paying two rents, DoD concerned about moving companies

Service members are feeling more financial pressure as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

With more than 120,000 troops unable to go on to their next orders, some service members stuck in limbo between moves say they are paying rent or mortgage bills in two places due to the military’s 60-day stop move order. Meanwhile, the leader of U.S. Transportation Command says he’s worried about the state of the household goods industry as companies are losing hundreds of millions of dollars of business due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Defense Department banned domestic permanent changes of station (PCS) from mid-March to mid-May and put a halt on troops coming home from overseas.

Since then, a Pain Points report from Blue Star Families found 21% of military families surveyed who were supposed to conduct a PCS during the stop move order are paying for housing in two areas or will at some point during the order.

“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 nowhere to do it because the movers are no longer allowed to come.”

The survey also unveiled a handful of financial pressures COVID-19 is placing on service members and their families. One major aspect of that is because 46% of military spouses who responded to the survey lost their job, are unable to work or have had reduced hours due to coronavirus.

The survey found 8% of military families are unable to afford one week of food and 6% are food insecure because they cannot access school-based food programs.

Additionally 11% of military families are still paying for childcare they are unable to use because of the virus.

The military is encouraging troops to reach out to the individual service relief organizations for help.

The moving industry

As service members are struggling with additional costs and setbacks from COVID-19, TRANSCOM Commander Gen. Steve Lyons says he’s worried about the moving industry.

“I’m very, very concerned, especially for our small business partners that make up so much of the household goods moving industry,” Lyons told reporters Tuesday during a teleconference. “We’re very active with the communication with the industry sector and the services who are managing the exception on the policy on the moves to make sure we are seeing things the same way and managing expectations in terms of workload.”

Katie McMichael, director of government affairs for the American Moving and Storage Association, told Federal News Network that the moving industry is losing at least $300 million from the stop move order.

The moving industry requested $187 million in funding from the stimulus bill. McMichael said that would allow businesses to recoup 60% of the money they would make during the 60-day stop order time period.

“If relief is not granted providers will suffer unprecedented economic losses due to the inability to service Department of Defense business,” the AMSA and the International Association of Movers wrote in a letter to Congress. “Household good providers have reserved their capacity in anticipation for these shipments and are now left with no business for the suspension period. It is likely and estimated that entities will go out of business or enact severe layoffs.”

The money did not make it into the most recent law. However, McMichael said her organization is still lobbying for the funds in future relief bills. AMSA is encouraging companies to apply for the small business loans available through the stimulus.

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