Obama Administration Issuing Grants to Keep Returning Troops Employed--By Government

By Kendra Alleyne | June 27, 2012 | 9:33am EDT

President Barack Obama reaches out to troops at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, on May 2, 2012. (Charles Dharapak/AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The Obama administration is issuing grants to keep returning troops on government payrolls.

People on active duty in the military are not counted as part of the civilian population from which the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics derives the unemployment rate. But once a person leaves active military service and enters civilian life they are counted as part of the population from which BLS derives the unemployment rate.

And if they actively search for a job during the course of any four weeks and do not get one, they are officially counted as unemployed and contribute to the national unemployment rate.

The Department of Justice is providing $111 million in grants to help 221 cities and counties hire 600 new police officers and re-hire another 200. And with this year’s funding, there's a twist:

“Each of these new hires will be military veterans who have served at least 180 days in our armed forces since Sept. 11, 2001,” Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday in Philadelphia, Pa.

“Communities nationwide will benefit from the experience and expertise that these veterans will bring to their new roles in law enforcement.  And those who courageously serve our country overseas will know that their fellow citizens--and leaders across this Administration--are committed to taking care of them when they return home,” Holder said.

The decision to "save or create" 800 police jobs and simultaneously hire veterans is a response to President Obama's call to provide new opportunities to returning military veterans, the Justice Department said.

Since taking office, President Obama has made a number of overtures to veterans, supporting a post-9/11 GI bill and creating new tax credits for businesses that hire veterans, among other things. Two years ago, first lady Michelle Obama launched Joining Forces, a national veterans-support initiative.

Although the military vote traditionally favors Republicans, Obama sees an opportunity to change that. Last month, the Obama campaign launched Veterans and Military Families for Obama. “As a veteran or military family member, you will play a key role in re-electing President Obama,” the website says.

The Justice Department is making the grant money available through its Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), which says it will work with transition centers across the country to connect veterans with the new grant-funded police jobs.

"This new opportunity for veterans is a commitment to support those who are coming home from their tour of duty," said Bernard Melekian, COPS Office Director. "We sincerely hope this effort encourages our veterans to continue to protect and serve the United States through new law enforcement careers.

A COPS representative told CNSNews.com that after the three-year grant money runs out, law enforcement agencies will be responsible for maintaining the new law enforcement positions. "We provide salary and benefits for three years. We ask the agency to maintain the positions for one additional year, so the fourth year is theirs and typically by that time they come up with a process or the funding to maintain those positions.”

Police agencies receiving the grants were selected based on fiscal need, crime rates, and their proposed community-policing plan. Due to the high demand and limited funding, only 221 of the 1,411 grant requests were ultimately funded, which is only about 15% of the total number of agencies that submitted applications.

The list of this year's grantees includes Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Trenton, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Akron, Toledo, Tacoma, Cumberland, Maine, and Summersville, West Virginia, among many other jurisdictions.

Since 1995, COPS has awarded over $13 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of approximately 120,000 officers.

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