First respondersObama unveils plan to hire vets as first-responders

Published 10 February 2012

Speaking at a fire station in Arlington, Virginia, last week, President Obama elaborated on his plans to hire veterans as first responders that he unveiled at the State of the Union Address

Speaking at a fire station in Arlington, Virginia, last week, President Obama elaboratedon his plans to hire veterans as first responders that he unveiled at the State of the Union Address.

In my State of the Union address, I proposed a new initiative called the Veterans Jobs Corps to put veterans back to work protecting and rebuilding America,” Obama said. “And today, we’re laying out the details of this proposal.”

In an effort to cut veteran unemployment rates, the president is encouraging local and state agencies to hire veterans as first responders.

First, we want to help communities hire more veterans as cops and firefighters,” he said. “Over the past few years, tight budgets have forced a lot of states, a lot of local communities, to lay off a lot of first responders.”

To that end, Obama announced$166 million in grant money for the 2012 Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring fund and $320 million in 2012 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants.  Preference for these grants will be given to communities that recruit and hire post-9/11 veterans to serve as police officers and firefighters.

Thousands of firefighter jobs were saved because of the actions we took,” the president said in reference to the passage of the Recovery Act which helped local and state governments avoid laying off first responders. “But budgets are still tight, and that’s a problem we need to fix. Jobs that protect our families and our communities shouldn’t be the first on the chopping block. They should be one of our highest priorities as a nation.”

The president’s announcement is part of a three-point plan to boost veteran employment rates. The initiative also includes putting veterans to work on public works projects restoring national parks, eradicating invasive species, and repairing trails, roads, and levees. Additionally veterans seeking to start their own businesses will have access to expanded entrepreneurship training opportunities.

Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, said the new three-part Veterans Job Corps initiative “will ensure our veterans don’t have to fight for jobs once they come home.”

Shinseki encourage business owners to “enlist veterans in the work of rebuilding our nation.”

He said the country owes it to the brave men and women who served after the 9/11 attacks “a debt of gratitude,” and that “we must ensure that veterans who come home from Afghanistan and Iraq get the opportunities they deserve.”

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