The Military Officers of America Association is taking applications for its Military Spouse Remote Telework Grant program. All CONUS active duty spouses employed by a small business are encouraged to apply.
The grant, managed by the MOAA Foundation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes program, gives recipients a Surface Pro laptop, extra monitor, mouse, keyboard, docking station, remote work templates and antivirus protection. The military spouse and their employer have to give quarterly updates for a year; if the arrangement is still working for both parties at the end of that 12 months, the employee gets to keep the goods.
Jennifer Goodale, MOAA's military spouse and family programs director, said the grants were originally offered in 2019 to help small businesses retain military spouses as employees. According to a 2017 Military OneSource report, 24% of the civilian spouses of active duty service members actively seeking work were unemployed. A PCS move within the past year more than doubled the odds that the spouse would be unemployed.
After the COVID pandemic led to widespread office closures, MOAA relaunched the grant program without a recent PCS requirement. "The pandemic has brought to light how far remote working can go," said Goodale. "Companies that were hesitant to go remote are more willing now."
The grant is aligned with Hiring Our Heroes' new Remote Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone's goals, especially after the organization found that military spouse unemployment jumped to 38% during the COVID pandemic.
"We want to combat the barriers that keep military spouses out of the workforce," said Angela Neal, Hiring Our Heroes' MSEEZ senior manager.
Suzanne McCurdy, an Air Force veteran married to an Army officer, received one of the kits in January 2020. She had recently left active duty and joined the military-spouse founded Instant Teams, which recruits and vets remote workers for companies. One of McCurdy's colleagues told her about the grant in the fall of 2019.
"We're still a start-up; my employer can't afford to send everyone a computer," McCurdy said.
The equipment helps McCurdy make a good impression on behalf of her team, she said.
"I do Zoom calls all day long with CEOs of large companies, and I'm almost always the first military spouse any of them sees," McCurdy said. "Having a computer with the bandwidth to handle a Zoom call was incredibly important. If I'm trying to talk to someone at Walmart, but I'm cutting out and freezing, that puts a damper on the meeting."
McCurdy was also able to move twice in less than a year and not miss a beat on the job. She started at Instant Teams as a team development specialist, then moved up to team development lead and was promoted again to her current account executive position. Not to mention, she climbed the ranks while simultaneously preparing to sell her family's Georgia home when her husband got orders to PCS to and deploy from Fort Campbell, Tennessee, moving to near family in Texas while she and her kids waited for a home in Tennessee, before finally relocating to Fort Campbell just before her husband returned from deployment.
"This took so much stress out, and allowed me to continue to uplevel my career," McCurdy said. "I tell everyone to apply. The worse that can happen is you'll be told no."
Goodale said that three of the 10 kits Microsoft provided remain, and MOAA will accept applications until they're all out. If a small business doesn't currently have a remote working option but wants to retain an active duty spouse, MOAA will work with the company to create one.
The application and more information are available here.
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