Yesterday, bipartisan legislation authored by Senator John Kerry to aid veteran and reservist entrepreneurs was signed into law. Kerry's bill, cosponsored by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), will increase loans and business training resources to veterans and help reservists keep their businesses afloat during deployment.
"Massachusetts' 477,000 veterans, including the more than 28,000 who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, will now have access to real opportunities to start and grow their businesses," said Senator Kerry. "Our veterans who put their lives on the line for our national security deserve economic opportunity when they come home, and this bipartisan achievement is one small way we can repay them for their hard work and sacrifice."
Kerry has been a leader in the Senate working to expand economic opportunities for veterans and reservists and has spearheaded this legislation since last spring to pass it into law. Last year, Kerry held a hearing examining the challenges facing veteran and reservist small business owners. In Massachusetts, there are approximately 28,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Last Congress, Kerry introduced the Military Family Bill of Rights, a bill that provided comprehensive and direct assistance for military members and their families, including loans, grants and tax credits to help veterans and reservists. Additionally, Kerry led a field hearing in Massachusetts to discuss ways to ease the burden of lengthy deployments on National Guard and Reservists who own or work for small businesses.
Senators Kerry and Snowe introduced the Military Reservist and Veteran Small Business Reauthorization and Opportunity Act (S. 1784) last year. Specifically, the legislation signed by the President will:
* Increase the authorization of appropriations for the Small Business Administration's Office of Veteran Business Development;
* Create an Interagency Taskforce on Veteran Small Business to focus on increasing veterans' small business success, procurement and franchising opportunities, and access to capital;
* Make permanent the Advisory Committee on Veterans Business Affairs;
* Allow the SBA Administrator to offer loans up to $50,000 without requiring collateral from a loan applicant;
* Improve the Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan program by providing a longer application deadline; creating a pre-deployment loan approval process; expanding outreach and technical assistance;
* Require a Government Accountability Office report on the needs of service-disabled veterans and a separate report on how to improve relations between employers and reservist employees;
* Create a loan participation program in which veterans can receive 7(a) loans while paying 50 percent of the fees;
* Require Veteran Business Outreach Centers to increase their participation in the Transition Assistance Program;
* Create a grant program to improve Small Business Development Centers' outreach to the veteran community; and
* Require the Office of Veterans Business Development to create and disseminate information aimed at informing women veterans about the resources available to them.