More housing money arrives as Pentagon reflects on hunger for military families

The Pentagon is increasing housing allowances and temporary accommodation reimbursements to military families as it grapples with food insecurity and tough economic times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the secretary said on Wednesday. the Lloyd Austin Defense.

Austin said he ordered the department to come up with a new strategy within three months to help starving servicemen and their dependents. In the meantime, military leaders will receive an “economic security toolkit” on how to identify food insecure troops and connect them with resources, the secretary said in a recently released memo.

The aid comes as housing and rental rates rise in some military communities in the United States due to shortages caused by COVID-19, and aid groups say many military personnel struggle to feed themselves and to feed their families since the virus first appeared in early 2020.

“Our men and women in uniform and their families have enough to worry about. Basic necessities like food and shelter should not be among them,” Austin said at a Pentagon press briefing.

The effort to bolster economic security also includes a command from Austin for military commands to allow longer postings and overseas tours, as well as leniency as to when service members are to report for duty. new assignments.

Military personnel in 56 geographic areas where housing costs have increased by at least 10% may be eligible for a basic temporary housing allowance to cover it. The initiative presented by Austin was originally announced in September and will last until new rates are announced in December and hit paychecks on January 1, 2022.

Reimbursement for temporary accommodation for families looking for housing or rental accommodation will be extended beyond 10 days in areas of shortage, Austin said.

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The pandemic, which has pushed more people to work from home, has resulted in a boom in home sales and rising prices, while the cost of renting has plummeted, making it more affordable. Construction was slowed down and could not meet demand, leaving families fighting over housing.

Austin said that “the pandemic and tight housing markets across the country have made financial struggles even more difficult” for the Army’s 2.2 million active-duty and reserve soldiers.

Food insecurity among military families has been a stark and largely invisible effect of the pandemic. Up to 160,000 active-duty enlisted soldiers have difficulty obtaining enough food, and 29% of the junior ranks have reported food insecurity in the past year, the Feeding America group estimated.

In a recent House hearing, Representative Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., Said 22,000 households with a service member received funds from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, according to figures from the US Department of Agriculture.

Austin said the DoD is deploying what it calls the Military Chief’s Economic Security Toolkit, which will be online help on the Military OneSource website.

“The toolkit contains specific resources for leaders on how to identify service members who are struggling to feed themselves and their families, how to engage in difficult conversations to assess food insecurity and connect members. services to additional resources and support programs aimed at reducing food insecurity. “, according to Austin’s note.

Here are some of the changes Austin asked the military to pursue:

  • Extend accompanied visits abroad with a quality of life comparable to that of the United States when possible.
  • Extend the 36-month mission time limit for troops in the continental United States when possible.
  • Allow maximum flexibility on the dates service members are expected to report for assignments to alleviate housing search problems.
  • Develop financial counseling and education, as well as employment resources for spouses.

– Travis Tritten can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter @Travis_Tritten.

– Konstantin Toropin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter @ktoropin.

Related: Thousands of military families struggling with food insecurity

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