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Tennant seeks to expand military spouse program

WHEELING — Secretary of state candidate Natalie Tennant said she hopes to see a program waiving some fees for new business owners to military spouses.

In 2015, while serving as secretary of state, Tennant persuaded the Legislature to pass the Veterans Business Waiver with support on both sides of the aisle, she said. The waiver allows veterans seeking to start a business to avoid paying a startup fee and annual reporting fees for the first four years, a savings of more than $200. Tennant said that since the program was enacted, hundreds of veterans have benefited from the waiver.

Tennant seeks to expand the plan to include military spouses as well, which she said will strengthen the “invisible backbone” of support for troops abroad.

“Military spouses face difficult challenges in finding work and employment, and Delloite (Insights) reports that there’s a staggering 24% unemployment, and 31-51% under-employment among military spouses nationwide. That’s unbelievable to me, and it’s not acceptable,” Tennant said at a press conference at Heritage Port. “It has a direct impact on our military as a whole, because if a military family is having difficulties at home, meeting barriers to employment, the readiness of our military is in jeopardy, because of the instability.”

The expanded program, Tennant said, would see spouses validated through the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System and would need to be approved by the Legislature.

“It’s almost like a stepping stone or dominos,” she added. “We have military here, and we need small businesses. This is a way to strengthen our military, say thank you, and build our economy at the same time.”

Tennant, a Democrat, served as secretary of state from 2009 until 2017, when Republican Mac Warner unseated her. Tennant is running against Warner in next week’s general election.

Early voting is underway at county courthouses throughout West Virginia and continues through Saturday. Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, which is Election Day.

(Olson can be contacted at aolson@theintelligencer.net)

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