New program helps vets gain employment - Tucson News Now

New program helps vets gain employment

(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

A new program just launched in Arizona to help unemployed veterans get the supplies they need to land a job.

Last year there were nearly half a million unemployed veterans in the U.S. and 279 jobless vets in Arizona. That’s according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services created the “Toolkit Program.” Tucson News Now spoke to a local vet who was on the verge of becoming homeless.

“It was really hard. I was in serious distress because of my family,” Navy Veteran, Dan Leih said.

Leih, was just slapped with an eviction notice. With mounting bills he was desperate to be able to provide for his family. Since his honorable discharge from the military in 2015, he’s struggled to find a steady job in Tucson.

“Most veterans don’t understand how difficult it’s going to be getting out. Even if you think you’ve planned. You’re stepping into a whole other world basically,” Leih said.

Leih spent the past few months as an auto mechanic but because of a military injury in his wrist, he couldn’t keep that job. That’s when he called the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services for help - just as they launched the Veterans Tool Kit Program.

“Knowing that there’s an agency that could help me or would at least try is huge. I didn’t have anywhere to turn to,” Leih said.

The program is designed to help vets achieve that last step toward employment. It could be anything from getting them reliable transportation to helping pay for tools for the new job.

“They need a bus pass, maybe they need a bike or they need some repairs to their car – or it can be something a uniform or clothing to be able to get into that job.”  Gary Ochoa, Southern Regional Manager for the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services said.

The Arizona Veterans donation fund is providing the money for this program. The pilot program will offer $150,000 over the course of this fiscal year, with a limit of $750 per veteran.

Vets must meet certain criteria:  they must live in Arizona, be enrolled in an Arizona Department of Economic Security employment program, and identify the job they need supplies for.

Leih is now working at a local medical marijuana dispensary. He said he hopes this program will prevent other service men and women from having to live on the streets.

“If the program can even help one vet have a roof over their head, it’s worth it,” Leih said.

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