WASHINGTON President Barack Obama on Friday announced measures to hire Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to restore national parks and work as police and firefighters in a bid to cut veterans' above-average unemployment rate.
The announcement followed Obama's vow in the January 24 State of the Union address to form a Veterans Job Corps to create jobs for veterans of the post-September 11 wars.
Obama proposed setting aside $1 billion to develop a conservation program that he said would put up to 20,000 veterans to work over five years rebuilding national parks or local communities.
"We're going to do everything we can to make sure that when our troops come home, they come home to new jobs and new opportunities and new ways to serve their country," Obama said in televised remarks at an Arlington, Virginia, firehouse.
In a separate statement, the White House announced 2012 grants of $166 million to hire veterans as police officers and $320 million to hire them as firefighters and emergency personnel.
Obama also will include in the 2013 budget a separate $4 billion in funding to promote police hiring, with communities that hire post-September 11 veterans getting preference for the funds. Another $1 billion would go to employ firefighters and emergency workers, the statement said.
The national jobless rate fell to 8.3 percent last month, the lowest in almost three years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate for veterans who served after the September 11, 2001, attacks is 9.1 percent.
Veterans overall have an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Bill Trott)