Legislation in Illinois and Missouri shortens the time it takes for a military member or their spouse to obtain a professional license, but removes only one of the obstacles they or they face to find a job.
Illinois joined a growing number of states in 2019, when Governor JB Pritzker signed legislation to help service members and their spouses get professional licenses and jobs faster. Missouri passed a similar law in 2020.
the original Illinois law required that the state Department of Financial and Occupational Regulation review and grant license applications to a military member or his or her spouse within 60 days of receiving the application. A updated in 2021 reduce this period to 30 days.
“It really prioritized the military and their spouses, making sure they got licenses quickly,” said Mario Treto, secretary of the department.
The act also established a military liaison within the department, whose sole job is to assist military members and their partners through the licensing process in Illinois. In the two years since the law took effect, more than 1,000 service members and their spouses have received help applying for a professional license in the state.
Jessica Manfre, whose husband is a member of the Coast Guard stationed in the Eastern Metropolitan Area, found the newly created military liaison helpful when she applied for a social work license in 2020.
“The bond was wonderful,” she said. “He responded the same day whenever I emailed with questions, concerns even though he couldn’t resolve the issue.”
But Manfre said she found herself frustrated with her experience obtaining a professional license in Illinois. As she nears graduation in May 2020 from her Master of Social Work program, Manfre said she has compiled the materials she needs for professional licensing in Illinois and Missouri..
“As soon as I graduated, I went to Missouri and got my license in five days,” she said. “I probably didn’t get my license from Illinois until a month and a half after that.”
While the two laws shave months off the application process, Manfre said, they only alleviate one of the obstacles that military spouses like her face when finding jobs, which is more difficult. for military families as they move across the country every few years.
While Manfré finally managed to find a job, unemployment and underemployment remain a persistent problem for military spouses. A 2020 Hiring our Heroes report found that 32% of military spouses are unemployedwhich rose to 45% in 2020, Manfre said.
“When we are compared side by side with our peers, in terms of education, we are above,” she said. “We have mastery [degrees], we’re certified in some areas, but we’re just sitting around, and yes, we’re also underemployed. »
Manfre said she appreciates the steps taken by states to help service members and their spouses. But she laments how reciprocal licensing laws across the country are failing in their primary purpose of putting people like her in solid jobs.
“It’s misleading,” she said. “No matter where we travel, we are going to be treated the same. It’s wonderful what Illinois has done, but there’s no military liaison in Missouri.
Treto acknowledged his department could do more to connect service members and their spouses to job opportunities.
“As an agency, we’re looking to help people with the permission component,” he said. “But we’re also able to refer people to other state agencies that might help them find jobs.”
Treto cites the Illinois Department of Public Health as an example. The most popular license applications are for nursing, dentists, surgeons and physicians, and his department could do more to connect those applicants to opportunities the health department is aware of, he said.
“The agency is committed to making it easy for military families to transition into the state,” Treto said. “It’s something that is a high priority.”
Eric Schmid covers the Metro East for St. Louis Public Radio as part of the Journalism Fellowship Program: Report for Americaan initiative of the GroundTruth project.