Iowa lawmakers are taking steps to address reports that citizen soldiers are having trouble finding jobs.
Representative Ray Zirkelbach, a Democrat from Monticello, serves in an Iowa National Guard unit that was on active duty nearly two years. Zirkelbach says the threat of a long deployment can deter businesses from hiring guard and reserve soldiers because they know they’ll have to pay unemployment benefits to a temporary worker who’s laid off when the soldier returns. "I’ve had people that have served with me come to me and say that they’re having a hard time finding employment because of their military status and the possibility of them being gone, taken away, like the last time when I was gone for 22 months," Zirkelbach says.
John Gilliland of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry says Iowa employers do a great job accommodating citizen soldiers, but sometimes pay a price when those soldiers come back after serving a tour of duty. "The downside under the current law is that somebody that is laid off, then, would be eligible for unemployment benefits and that’s chargeable back to the employer who simply complying with the law and doing the right thing by taking that veteran back into the workplace," Gilliland says.
Gilliland and Zirkelbach support a bill that would waive the unemployment charges a business incurs if the jobless benefits are for a temporary worker who lost their job when a soldier returned home. The laid off worker would still get unemployment benefits, but the cost would be covered the state fund into which all businesses are required to pay. The proposal has already won the approval of the Iowa Senate and must win House approval as well as a signature from the governor before it becomes law.