Christine Stuart photo
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (Christine Stuart photo)

He signed the bill on June 3, but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wanted to bring more attention to legislation that will expand a veterans employment program by holding a ceremonial bill signing Thursday.

“The thing I’ve learned about veterans . . . they receive information in stages,” Malloy said. “They may be told one thing, one day, and the same thing a month later, and the same thing a month later and they may not be ready to accept or act.”

With 6,000 to 8,000 veterans returning to the state of Connecticut over the next few years, that means the state needs to constantly be reminding veterans of the programs and services available to them, he said.

“Quite frankly, I’m using you,” Malloy told the media gathered at the CTWorks Career Center in Hartford for the signing.

Veterans are a subset of workers who face “stubbornly high unemployment rates,” Malloy said. The unemployment rate is about 32 percent for veterans despite their often unique skill sets.

The bill Malloy ceremonially signed in front of the cameras Thursday expands the Unemployed Armed Services Member Subsidized Training and Employment Program to include veterans who have served at least 90 days and were honorably discharged from the military. Prior to the legislation, unemployed veterans could only qualify for the program if they were a combat veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan or military operations in Iraq. The bill also expands participation in the program to businesses of any size. Previously, it was limited to companies with more than 100 employees.

The $10 million program that received unanimous support from the legislature helps place veterans with private employers, who receive a subsidy from the state during the first six months of employment. The hope is that employers will continue to employ the veteran after the subsidy runs out.

The military program is modeled after the general Subsidized Training and Employment Program — which is open to unemployed individuals who have an adjusted gross income equal to or less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level or who live in a municipality with an unemployment rate higher than the state rate as of Sept. 1, 2011, or who reside in a town with a population above 80,000. That program has helped place 1,675 workers in jobs with 504 companies. The average hourly wage of those workers is about $17.30, according to the Department of Labor.

The program was originally part of the October 2011 bipartisan jobs bill and was expanded in June 2012 to include the military.

“We want to provide the maximum opportunity to our veterans,” Labor Department Commissioner Sharon Palmer said.

She said the Malloy administration itself aims to hire veterans whenever possible. “This governor cares about veterans. Without his leadership and the legislature’s leadership we would not have this bill.”

Officials from Ensign-Bickford of Simsbury had planned to attend the press conference Thursday to talk about the success they’ve had with the initiative — they were the first company in the state to hire a veteran under the program — but NASA came to visit to celebrate their partnership in the aerospace industry.

The press conference did include a veteran who is not a stranger to the CTWorks Career Center, a collaboration of the Labor Department and Capital Workforce Partners.

Christine Stuart photo
Monica Cox, a veteran who heads up the program with Capital Workforce Partners (Christine Stuart photo)

Monica Cox returned from Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan in March 2012 so she understands the struggles post-9/11 veterans face in today’s economy.

“Not only can I sympathize with these veterans, I can empathize. I really know what they’re going through,” Cox, a veterans representative with Capital Workforce Partners, said before Malloy signed the bill.

Just three months ago, Cox was able to place a veteran, who is also a single mother, with a company. The veteran was unemployed for six months prior to finding employment through the program.

It’s a program that helps get veterans back to work, sometimes after long periods of unemployment, but it also helps Connecticut employers find talented workers, Cox said.

Connect with Christine: