Lawmakers seek to help military families with housing, childcare, meals

One of the bills will help provide housing to military families on housing waitlists amid shortages on military bases.

Military members and their families could see improved housing, better child care services and easier access to school meal support under a series of bills making their way through the legislative process.

For example, Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) introduced a bill to help military families with housing. The bill is included in the House National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024.

Specifically, if a member of the armed forces and their family have just undergone a permanent change of station and been placed on an on-base housing waitlist for more than 10 days after their arrival, the Defense Department would have to provide them with appropriate temporary housing to bridge them to their permanent housing.

The act also calls for data on the number of military personnel and their families that this will affect, how long they have been waiting for appropriate housing, factors causing these waitlists and why waitlists can be longer than 10 days.

“Our veterans and service members sacrifice so much to keep us safe, and it is our duty to make sure we honor our commitments to them when they come home — which ultimately includes ensuring they have access to housing. I am proud to sponsor H.R. 5972 and will continue to push for Congress to protect America’s veterans,” Neguse said in a statement to Federal News Network.

The 2024 House and Senate versions of the NDAA also incorporate several bills pertaining to housing allowance calculations. Both versions also focus on constructing military family housing for the different service branches.

The House NDAA also explores affordable housing. This version also had housing bills about requirements for a housing complaint database and for other housing reforms. There will also be a pilot program to have air purification technology in military housing.

In the Senate version, there were several provisions for privatized military housing, including improvements to this type of housing, having better oversight for privatized military housing and nondisclosure agreements for privatized military housing.

In September, Reps. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) introduced the Military Dependents School Meal Eligibility Act of 2023. The bill looks to have children of armed service members certified as eligible for free or reduced school lunches and breakfasts without further application. For example, this would mean that certain military housing allowances aren’t counted as household income when officials determine free or reduced meal eligibility.

The House and Senate 2024 NDAAs do not include school meals. However, the Senate version has provisions to support schools with significant numbers of military dependent students.

Additionally, Congressional members Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.), Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Del. James Moylan (R-Guam) introduced a bill in October to provide more child care and jobs for military families.

It would require the Defense Department to produce a report within a little over three years about at-home child care programs offered by each military department. The report would have to include information such as: the number of programs that have opened, closed or relocated during this time period; difficulties military spouses employed at these programs experience and how the opening, closing or relocation of these programs impact military spouses’ employment. It would also require a study within six months of the act’s enactment on requirements to standardize licensing and certification for at-home child care providers, remove barriers to expand these programs and support employing military spouses in at-home child care programs.

The 2024 House NDAA also includes several child care initiatives. For example, House lawmakers want to increase funding for military child care and expand the child care discounts the Defense Department offers to its own child care employees. The measure also seeks to expand a pilot program to provide financial assistance to members of the armed forces for at-home child care, assist caregivers in military families and create a peer mentoring program for military dependents. Meanwhile, the Senate NDAA has a pilot program to recruit employees for child development programs.

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