With unemployment among young veterans in New York topping 14.6 percent, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is making a personal pitch today to New York business to hire veterans and receive a tax break from the federal government in return. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which was expanded earlier this as part of the Economy Recovery Plan, can help thousands of veterans who are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan to find a still-reeling economy and scarce jobs.
To provide additional economic assistance for veterans, Senator Gillibrand is also introducing the Veterans' Business Center Act of 2009 - legislation that would help veterans gain access to capital and federal grant money to start new businesses and grow existing ones, as well as new a proposal to provide assistance for homeless veterans.
"Too many veterans are coming home to a very bad job market and unable to find work," Senator Gillibrand said. "They fulfilled their duty to our country, and now it's time for us to fulfill our duty to them by making sure they have access to a good-paying job. The tax breaks we put in place earlier this year are a win-win for businesses and veterans, but we need to make sure businesses know they are available and take advantage of them by hiring more veterans. I'm making a personal pitch to the business owners I meet to hire a vet and take advantage of the tax credit."
According to a new report from Senator Gillibrand, 7.3 percent of all veterans across New York State are unemployed.
READ Senator Gillibrand's full report.
* In New York City, an estimated 17,300 veterans are unemployed. Unemployment among New York City veterans increased by an estimated 4,700 over the last year.
* In Western New York, an estimated 8,800 veterans are unemployed. Unemployment among Western New York Veterans increased by an estimated 2,400 over the last year.
* In the Rochester/Finger Lakes Region, an estimated 6,600 veterans are unemployed. Unemployment among all Rochester-Finger Lakes Region veterans increased by an estimated 1,800 over the last year.
* In Central New York, an estimated 5,800 veterans are unemployed. Unemployment among Central New York veterans increased by an estimated 1,600 over the last year.
* In the Southern Tier, an estimated 4,500 veterans are unemployed. Unemployment among Southern Tier veterans increased by an estimated 1,200 over the last year.
* In the Capital Region, an estimated 7,200 veterans are unemployed. Unemployment among Capital Region veterans increased by an estimated 2,000 over the last year.
* In the North Country, an estimated 3,000 veterans are unemployed. Unemployment among North Country veterans increased by an estimated 800 over the last year.
* In the Hudson Valley, an estimated 9,500 veterans are unemployed. Unemployment among Hudson Valley veterans increased by an estimated 2,600 over the last year.
* On Long Island, an estimated 12,200 veterans are unemployed. Unemployment among Long Island veterans increased by an estimated 3,300 over the last year.
To honor our veterans and give them the resources they need during these difficult economic times, Senator Gillibrand is launching a legislative agenda to provide economic assistance for veterans.
Jobs for Veterans, Tax Cuts for Businesses
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that Senator Gillibrand helped pass earlier this year expanded the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to include new incentives for businesses to hire returning veterans, and extended them through the end of 2010. But with so few businesses aware of the tax credit, the opportunity has gone under-utilized. Senator Gillibrand has been partnering with local Chambers of Commerce across New York State throughout this year to raise awareness among New York businesses of the tax credit, and encourage them to hire New York veterans returning home.
With Veteran's Day this week and unemployment among New York veterans remaining high, Senator Gillibrand is writing to every single Chamber of Commerce in New York, urging them to work with their members and encourage area businesses to hire veterans and utilize the federal tax break.
In return for hiring a veteran, businesses may write off 40 percent of the first $6,000 paid to a veteran. The veteran needs to be out of the service for no more than five years, and must have spent at least 4 weeks of the previous year on unemployment.
Additionally, Senator Gillibrand is writing to the Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor, Jane Oates, requesting that the Labor Department's Web site be updated with current information about the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to make sure businesses and veterans know about the opportunities available to them.
New Veterans Business Centers
Nationwide, 14 percent of all small businesses are owned by veterans. But like all entrepreneurs, veterans face the challenge of getting access to the capital they need to get new business ideas off the ground. To help give them the start-up money they need, Senator Gillibrand is introducing the Veterans' Business Center Act of 2009 - legislation that would establish a national network of Veterans Business Centers (VBCs) to serve as a one-stop-shop for veterans trying to start a business.
Based on effective Women Business Center models, the new national network of VBCs would help veterans navigate federal grant programs to start new businesses, and offer expert guidance for veterans working to start or grow their businesses. The legislation would provide each VBC with up to $150,000 each year for up to five years, leveraging at least 50 percent from private investments or other sources.
The VBCs would be targeted for areas with high numbers of returning veterans with the ability to assist over 100,000 businesses nationwide within their first two years. Based on New York's share of all small businesses, that means more than 10,000 businesses assisted in New York
Veterans Homeless Fund
Over 130,000 veterans are homeless, according to estimates from the Department of Veterans Affairs. With more and more veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and with the economic downfall keeping them out of the job market, veterans are at increasingly high risk of living in poverty and homelessness. In fact, according to a study by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, over 70,000 veterans recently home from Iraq and Afghanistan spend over half of their income on housing, despite not having access to a new job once they get home - putting them at extreme risk of going homeless.
To help give homeless veterans the resources they need, Senator Gillibrand is co-sponsoring legislation that would allow American taxpayers the opportunity to provide $3 of their taxes for homeless veterans by creating a new check-off box on federal tax returns, similar to the Presidential Election Campaign fund.
The $3 check-box would not be required, but would simply give every taxpayer the chance to send some much-needed help to homeless veterans.