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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, along Main Street, in a countless number of towns, many small businesses are placed at a competitive disadvantage by our tax laws. Business owners need to remodel their store every 5 to 7 years. Consumers' tastes and needs change, and to stay competitive, a store needs to reflect those changes. If a store is owned, the owner is required to depreciate the renovation costs over 39 years, but a store that has leased space in the strip-mall across town, depreciates renovation costs over a 15-year period. The result: a Main Street store owner pays twice as much to renovate as their counterpart who leases.

Today, I am introducing legislation along with Senator Snowe that will even the playing field for businesses that own the real estate where their business is located. We want parity between the business owners who own and those who lease their property.

The Treasury Department, the Congressional Research Service, and private economists have found that the depreciation life for renovations is far too long. These tax rules generate high tax costs, laying the burden on small town, rural retailers who are more likely to own their property than retailers in urban areas. It is time to address this inequity by reducing the 39-year tax depreciation period to 15 years. I urge my colleagues to support our Main Street stores through support of this legislation.



S. 3833. A bill to authorize support for the Armed Forces Support Foundation in assisting members of the National Guard and Reserve and former members of the Armed Forces in securing employment in the private sector, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Armed Services.

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, today I am introducing the Armed Forces Employment Support Act, AFESA, which will help members of our Armed Forces transition to employment after their military service. My legislation will help the Armed Forces Support Foundation, AFSF, a nonprofit organization that helps military veterans and members of the National Guard and Reserve find jobs in the private sector, create new programs that help veterans obtain jobs after their service to the Nation.

This legislation is necessary to address disproportionate unemployment rates for young veterans, the cost to the Government to provide unemployment insurance, and skilled labor shortages in key industries. For instance, the unemployment rate for veterans aged 22 to 26 is three times the national average. The Government has spent $87 million on unemployment benefits for recently discharged veterans and lost an estimated $50 million in tax revenue. Further, a study sponsored by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation concluded the biggest problem facing the transportation industry is the shortage of skilled labor.

The transportation industry will benefit from this legislation given that many veterans have experience in transportation from their military service.

Specifically, AFESA authorizes $10 million annually through fiscal year 2011 for the National Guard to make grants to AFSF to help it pursue agreements to hire veterans with businesses in industries ranging from transportation to domestic security.

AFSF is modeled on a successful veterans employment transition program, Helmets to Hardhats, which has helped more than 150,000 veterans find jobs in the construction industry and has referred 40,000 veterans into apprenticeship programs. Helmets to Hardhats evaluates each veteran it works with to identify that veteran's experiences. It then takes that information and targets various business within the construction industry that has positions that require similar skills. The agreements it enters into guarantee a long-term partnership that benefit both parties. Helmets to Hardhats has also entered into an agreement with the National Guard to assist with recruiting efforts. In 2005, it helped recruit 396 men and women into the National Guard, which is estimated to have saved the military $3.7 million in recruiting costs.

The success of Helmets to Hardhats has been noted in the media, by the National Guard, the Department of Labor, 17 State Governors, senators, congressmen, and others as an innovative organization that has shown results and truly benefitted the veteran community and the construction industry. AFSF will build upon the success of Helmets to Hardhats by facilitating employment in multiple industries with positions that are applicable to skills veterans acquired in the military.

I can think of few causes more important that helping those who have risked their lives defending our country find good jobs and realize the American dream. Unfortunately, many veterans of the war in Iraq and other theaters are finding it difficult to find a job when they return from service. For instance, at 15.6 percent, the unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-old veterans is nearly twice that of nonveterans. This is an unacceptable fact that this legislation will help ameliorate. Indeed, I am confident that the success of Helmets to Hardhats in the construction industry will be replicated many times over by AFSF.

Mr. President, this legislation is based on the premise that no one who has served our country in uniform should be left behind when they return to civilian life. AFSF's mission is a worthwhile and important cause that deserves the Government's support. I know that it will help our veterans, and I hope my colleagues will support it.


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