MILITARY RESERVIST AND VETERAN SMALL BUSINESS REAUTHORIZATION AND OPPORTUNITY ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - December 05, 2007)
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Mr. ALTMIRE. I thank the Chair and the ranking member for their continued leadership on these issues, and I especially want to thank my good friend from Florida, Mr. Buchanan. It was a pleasure working with him to craft this legislation. He was an equal partner in putting this bill on the floor today, and I want to recognize his leadership as well.
Madam Speaker, with nearly 25 million veterans and over 1 million Reservists in the United States, there is a need, and a growing need, for an increased commitment by the government to assist veterans and Reservists both during and after their service to our Nation. As more and more servicemembers return to civilian life after their deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the opportunities and economic benefits that the Federal Government can provide will become even more critical, especially for businesses that are owned and operated by veterans.
The brave men and women that put their lives on hold to defend our Nation should not have to sacrifice their jobs and their livelihoods. Starting and maintaining a small business presents challenges for anyone, and, unfortunately, veterans often face unique barriers as a result of their military service. The unemployment rate among veterans is double the overall national unemployment rate, and over half of all self-employed Reservists experience significant income loss when they are called to duty.
Over the past 3 years, we have watched as the number of returning veterans and Reservists has increased, and that number is only going to continue to grow.
While Congress has passed legislation and provided Federal agencies with some of the resources necessary to provide entrepreneurial opportunities for veterans, I believe that more can be done to relieve the burden that is placed on small business owners during and after their deployment.
To ensure that the Federal Government is there to assist our country's servicemembers, I have introduced the bill that we are debating here today, the Military Reservist and Veteran Small Business Reauthorization and Opportunity Act. This legislation will support and expand entrepreneurial opportunities for veterans and Reservists to ensure that their livelihoods are not compromised because of their military service.
My bill increases funding for the Small Business Administration's Office of Veteran Business Development to $4.4 million and facilitates the coordination of all Federal agencies to focus attention on increasing the success rate of and opportunities for veteran-owned small businesses.
This legislation will make the Advisory Committee on Veterans Business Affairs permanent, strengthening the focus and input advisory committees can provide to the Federal Government to ensure continued commitment to our Nation's veterans. The Advisory Committee has been an important source of information for the Federal Government. By making the committee permanent, we can continue to improve the support provided to veteran and Reservist small business owners.
We will also increase the number of Veteran Business Outreach Centers across the country and identify areas that are in need of additional assistance to ensure that veterans and Reservists in every region are able to keep their businesses afloat.
Through grants of up to $300,000 per year made to Small Business Development Centers, this bill will establish the Reservist Enterprise Transition and Sustainability program to provide one-on-one counseling on management, financing, procurement and regulatory assistance to small business owners to help our returning service men and women successfully transition to civilian life.
Finally, my legislation makes much-needed improvements to the Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan program by requiring the SBA to extend the application deadline, raise the maximum loan amount and create a pre-consideration process for small businesses applying for assistance during military deployment. This is important, because currently Reservists can apply for a loan only after deployment, when their businesses are already in the red. A pre-deployment loan would be helpful to many small business owners during active duty when the funding is most critical.
Madam Speaker, there is no question that veterans have a unique ability to thrive as entrepreneurs. They have the leadership skills and work ethic necessary to run a small business and a successful business. But we must do more to help veteran entrepreneurs fully meet their needs and overcome the unique challenges that they face.
I believe that we owe no greater debt than to our brave men and women in uniform, and it is essential that they are afforded every opportunity for economic success at home, especially given their sacrifices for us abroad.
I strongly support the Military Reservist and Veteran Small Business Reauthorization and Opportunity Act, and I ask my colleagues to support this important legislation.
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