Pentagon to resume career grants to military spouses
Facing a phalanx of angry military spouses, the Defense Department said Thursday it will resume payments for college courses and job training for spouses who already had applied for grants when the popular program was halted abruptly last month.
The Associated Press
By the numbersThe military says more than 681,000 Americans are married to active-duty service members, who move an average of every three years. A 2007 Defense Department survey showed 46 percent of spouses of enlisted personnel held civilian jobs, while 9 percent were unemployed but looking for work.
The Associated Press
SAVANNAH, Ga. — Facing a phalanx of angry military spouses, the Defense Department said Thursday it will resume payments for college courses and job training for spouses who already had applied for grants when the popular program was halted abruptly last month.
The official in charge of the year-old program that pays up to $6,000 for career advancement also apologized for suspending the grants without first notifying thousands of military spouses enrolled. He said grants were halted Feb. 16 because an unexpected spike in enrollment busted the program's $174 million budget.
More than 136,000 spouses who were enrolled or had applied for grants before the shutdown can resume signing up for classes Saturday, said Tommy Thomas, deputy undersecretary for defense who oversees the grants.
The program — called Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts, or MyCAA — started in March 2009. Spouses of active-duty military service members and of reservists called to active duty could apply for up to $6,000 to pay for college tuition or costs associated with professional licenses and certificates.
The grants were intended to help spouses find better jobs, since frequent moves by military families often hamper their careers.
The response was overwhelming. By the time MyCAA was suspended last month, 98,000 spouses were enrolled and more than 38,000 more had applications pending. If all received the full $6,000 grant, the estimated cost would exceed $819 million — nearly five times the program's budget.
Maj. April Cunningham, a Defense Department spokeswoman, said officials were able to reprogram funds to meet MyCAA's immediate needs. But new grant applications won't be accepted until the department decides on a long-term plan for the program.
The program's sudden suspension last month stunned and outraged military spouses. More than 1,200 joined a Facebook group to vent their outrage; others began planning a protest rally in Washington, D.C., or Norfolk, Va. Many enlisted help from 67 congressmen who sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
"The spouses are extremely happy — they feel that their voices were heard," said Rebecca Duncan, wife of a Navy sailor stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas. "We spouses put the pressure on them, and we really think that's what spurred them to turn around."
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