U.S. Senator Mark Pryor today announced a package of legislation to support members of the military and their communities. These initiatives would provide financial assistance to servicemen and women to rebuild or start up a business, support police or fire departments who must hire a temporary replacement when a member of their department deploys, and provide "veteran" status to certain members of the Guard and Reserves.
First, Pryor introduced the Patriot Express Authorization Act to expedite and prioritize small business loans to members of the military seeking to start, resume or expand a business. It turns a successful Small Business Administration pilot program into a permanent program that provides high-guarantee, express loans to active and non-active military members, veterans, spouses, children and widows or widowers. Members of the military community can use these loans to cover start-up or expansion costs, equipment, working capital, inventory or real-estate.
Specifically, the legislation increases the maximum loan amount from $500,000 to $1 million; provides military members' loans preferential status over other Express loans; reduces fees imposed by the Small Business Administration and processes loans through "express lenders" to reduce wait time to an average of 36 hours.
"Servicemen and women often put their personal lives and careers on hold to serve our country," Pryor said. "We can't ever repay them for their service, but we can provide financial tools so they can jumpstart or expand a business. This is a win-win for our military members and economy."
Second, Pryor introduced the Strengthening Community Safety Act to reimburse police and fire departments as well as ambulance services for extraordinary costs that are incurred when one of their Guard or Reserve members is deployed overseas. The grant program, under the Department of Homeland Security, would reimburse first responder agencies for the salary and equipment of an individual hired to replace an employee or overtime expenses for an employee performing tasks performed by the deployed employee.
"Many communities in Arkansas and across the nation have seen a number of their policemen, firemen, and EMT personnel sent overseas. The additional expense to hire, train and equip a temporary employee poses an economic hardship on these communities," Pryor said. "My legislation provides some assistance and ensures these departments remain well-prepared to respond to emergencies."
Finally, Pryor introduced the Honor America's Guard-Reserve Retirees Act to give Guard and Reserve retirees with 20 years of service the honor of being called a veteran. The current definition of veteran applies only to servicemen and women who served on active duty. While the change in definition does not provide additional financial benefits to a member, the honor enables the qualifying individuals to salute when the Star Spangled Banner is played, march in veterans' parades and be recognized as a veteran by other veterans.
"The sacrifice and service of our Reserve and Guard members should never go unnoticed. This bill is a small step that makes a big difference to all those who served," Pryor said.