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New bill helps military spouses get back to work after a move

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Mike Kurtz
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A bill that will make it easier for military spouses to start working immediately after moving to the state is about to become law. New York is the only state that requires military spouses to re-apply for their professional license after arriving here.

Sponsored by state Sen. Patty Ritchie (R-Oswegatchie), the bill will accelerate the application process for spouses who hold a professional license in another state. This could be anyone from a nurse, to a social worker, even someone who wants to cut hair. You need a license issued by New York State to practice over 40 different of professions. Ritchie said she wrote up this bill at the request of Fort Drum families.

"If you are a soldier and you come to the post and your spouse comes with you, when they send in to get their license in New York state they are treated like someone who is getting their license for the first time," Ritchie said.

That means a long wait –- months or even a year -- before that spouse is allowed to start working in their field. Servicemen and their families move a lot, often across state lines. Ritchie, who represents the Fort Drum area, said without this bill, a military spouse  who works as a licensed professional might think twice before following their partner to Fort Drum and other bases across New York.

"It helps our military families stay together. It is only fair that when they are serving our country we are doing everything we can to help their families and I think this is just something that should have been done a long time ago," said Ritchie.

The bill will also lower licensing fees by half for military family members. Ritchie said she tried last year to pass the bill but it got held up in the Assembly. She said this time, Fort Drum generals made the extra push for support. The bill passed both chambers and is now waiting for the governor's signature.