February 3rd, 2012
12:56 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Barack Obama unveiled a new jobs initiative geared toward veterans Friday that the administration says will put thousands of former men and women in uniform back to work.
The new so-called Veterans Jobs Corps initiative, first mentioned in the president's State of the Union address the first week in February, involves partnerships with the Veterans Administration and the Interior Department, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies.
“When these men and women come home, they bring unparalleled skills and experiences. They’ve saved lives in some of the toughest conditions imaginable,” Obama said during a speech at anArlington,Virginiafirehouse. “These are Americans that every business should be competing to attract.”
But with a price tag of at least $5 billion, it's likely the new initiative will be met with stiff opposition in Congress.
Specifically, Obama said his administration will preference awards of $166 million in grant money to communities that hire post-9/11 veterans for new law-enforcement positions. Simultaneously, $320 million in grant money will be preferenced to various fire departments that pledge to hire and train new veterans.
The money for those grants has already been appropriated by Congress as part of programs that are broadly targeted at retaining and hiring law enforcement personnel and firefighters. But the president is seeking an additional $4 billion in his upcoming budget to expand both programs with an eye toward awarding those communities who fill their ranks with veterans. Congress rejected a similar proposal last fall that was part of the president's broader jobs initiative.
“Congress should take money we are no longer spending on war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest of it to nation build right here at home,” Obama said Friday.
The president also announced that his upcoming budget will include a $1 billion proposal to create as many as 20,000 new jobs for veterans relating to conservation efforts ofAmerica's federal and state public lands.
That initiative, to be overseen by the Department of Interior, would put veterans to work in visitor and tourism-related jobs as well as positions that would assist in general upkeep and maintenance roles throughout the country's public parks and nature preserves.
"These are common-sense initiatives to serve our 9/11 veterans who are coming home," Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar told reporters on a conference call with reporters Thursday. "We hope Congress does its job (in approving the funding)."
The president also announced he will propose expanding training programs for entrepreneurially focused veterans seeking to start their own businesses. This program would include online training seminars conducted by the Small Business Administration lasting as long as eight weeks and could service as many as 10,000 veterans annually, according to administration estimates.
“We are going to do everything we do to make sure that when our troops come home, they are going to come home to new opportunities,” Obama said.
The latest unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans is 9.1%, higher than the country's overall unemployment rate of 8.3% but down from 13.1% in 2009. Among the president's few jobs proposals to clear Congress last year were new tax credits for businesses that hire recent veterans.