CHICAGO (AP) — Legislation that gives Illinois employers more incentive in hiring veterans by doubling the state's income tax credit was signed into law Monday.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill that increases the tax credit from 10 percent to 20 percent of annual wages. It also increases the annual cap from $1,200 to $5,000. The law went into effect immediately.
Employers for veterans who served after Sept. 11, 2001, and who work at least 185 days a year are eligible. Quinn did not have exact estimates on the cost to the state, but said it would be a "couple million dollars," which he called a worthwhile investment.
"It needed to be made more generous especially given the crying need that all of us ... recognize that our young veterans coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq too often are unemployed," he said. "It's unacceptable. It's shameful. We have to do better in Illinois and across our country."
Veterans, particularly younger ones, face higher unemployment rates than the general population.
In 2011, the jobless rate for those who've served since September 2001 was 12.1 percent, compared with 8.7 percent for those who are not veterans, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among male veterans ages 18 to 24 it was about 29 percent, compared with 17 percent for those of the same age who are not veterans.
Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Director Erica Borggren said veterans face distinct challenges in the workplace. That includes translating their military skills and training into the civilian workplace. She said the problem will only get worse as forces withdraw from Afghanistan and the number of veterans in Illinois increases.
She said the tax credit would help.
"This is a powerful, immediate first step," said Borggren, who is a veteran.
Earlier this month, Quinn signed other bills that help veterans get access to jobs and state benefits. That includes a law that gives veterans a special distinction on their driver's licenses and identification cards so they are easily identified by state agencies.
State officials also touted a veterans' job fair planned for Thursday in Chicago.
A coalition of companies and government agencies is hosting the event with the goal of hiring 100,000 veterans by 2020. The Illinois-based companies include Abbott Laboratories, Caterpillar Inc., McDonald's Corp., and Kraft Foods Inc.
The bill is SB3241.