Right now, you may have just finished a long day at work. Given the current economic environment, you are probably very thankful for your job knowing that so many people cannot find employment. Each of us are aware of the recession that our nation has faced for the past four years, and the devastating effect it has had on our job markets nationally and here in New York State.

The national jobless figures for the past four years are staggering, with the average yearly unemployment rate being 8.3%. New York State is nearly identical, with the average yearly unemployment rate being 8.5% in the same period.

It is hard for anyone to imagine the job market being worse for any particular cross section of the population but it is. The most recent statistics released by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics places the unemployment rate for African Americans at 13.6%, while young adults are confronted with an unemployment rate of 23.2%. Moreover, the unemployment statistics for returning veterans are just as bad.

Imagine being a United States Marine, who has just completed two tours of duty patrolling the dangerous streets of Iraq, returning home, and being told there are no jobs available. Imagine being an Army Private who was recently honorably discharged after three years of battling the Taliban in the hills of Afghanistan only to have every job application declined. The unemployment rate amongst our post 9/11 veterans returning from overseas is 13.1%, far above the national average. Testimony received at a recent U.S. House of Representatives hearing estimated that one out of every five returning National Guardsmen or Reservist is unemployed. This is unacceptable.

Our veterans deserve better. A great nation has never been measured by the cheers on the street for soldiers as they leave for war, but rather the degree of compassion and respect shown to its servicemen and women upon their return from duty. Our collective national obligation to our veterans extends further than a guarantee of proper medical care and educational opportunities. We must also make sure that they are not disproportionately affected by a bad economy and high unemployment rate.

In Washington DC and state legislatures throughout the nation, Republicans and Democrats are working towards improving the job market. Despite proposing and believing in different solutions on how to create jobs and end the recession, both political parties agree that government has a duty to provide incentives for employers to hire returning servicemen and an obligation to ensure there are legitimate job opportunities for veterans.

On the federal level, Congress passed the Returning Heroes Tax Credit which provides an incentive of up to $5,600 for firms to hire unemployed veterans and the Wounded Warrior Tax Credit which provides incentive to hiring long-term unemployed veterans with service-connected disabilities up to $9,600.

Here in New York State, we are attempting to spur veteran hiring through legislation (New York State Assembly Bill #1355) that I am a proud sponsor of which provides a wage tax credit to employers who hire New York National Guardsmen and Women Reservists.

All of the above referenced federal and state legislation are good first steps in assisting returning servicemen and women but our veterans need help now in finding employment. That is why New York State Assemblyman Edward Ra and myself are sponsoring a Job Fair on March 16th at Molloy College in an attempt to offer an opportunity to those veterans in need of employment. Despite being designed for veterans, this Job Fair will be open to the entire general public. In addition to over 60 employers being present, the Job Fair will provide class room seminars on resume writing, interview techniques, and job search resources to all that are interested. The Job Fair will run from 1pm until 4pm at Molloy College in Kellenberg Hall.

Our returning veterans deserve the best that we can give them. With all they have sacrificed for us and this country, it is only right that we do what we can to give back to them. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Brian Curran
New York State Assemblyman, 14th District Office: (516) 561-8216 E-Mail: curranb@assembly.state.ny.us