WASHINGTON – Today the Senate unanimously passed legislation that will expand business opportunities for veterans and help reservists keep their businesses afloat during and after deployment. Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), Chairman and Ranking Member and member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Congressman Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) have been working to pass the legislation since July.

“Six years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq has created a new generation of veterans and placed a greater burden on our reserve forces than ever before. I’m glad we are finally delivering this business assistance to our brave veterans and reservists so they won’t be forced to choose between service to our country and running a business,” said Senator Kerry. “The Senate and the House worked hard and worked across the aisle to reach a compromise. I urge the House to pass this bill that will give America’s veterans and reservists some of the economic security they deserve after they’ve put their lives on the line for our security.”

Kerry and Snowe attached similar provisions to the Department of Defense authorization bill that passed in September, but the provisions were stripped out when the House and Senate negotiated differences in the final bill. Democrats also brought the provisions up for full consideration by the Senate in November, but a Senator objected to passing the bill. The legislation passed today is based on the compromise reached by the House and Senate during Department of Defense authorization negotiations.

Senator Snowe added, “This vital bipartisan and bicameral legislation will greatly assist veteran entrepreneurs and the small businesses that employ them, as well as companies that help supply our defense needs. As our Guard and Reserve forces continue to selflessly answer our nation’s call to duty, we must similarly fulfill our responsibility to help protect their livelihoods back home, and this legislation is a crucial step in achieving that goal. I am particularly grateful to Chairman Kerry and Senator Coburn for working so closely with me in the final hours to forge a bipartisan compromise. I urge the House of Representatives to expeditiously take up – and pass—this critical measure so that the President can sign it into law.”

“I thank Sen. Kerry for his leadership in passing this very important legislation to help our veterans and reservists during and after their service,” said Congressman Altmire, author of the House bill that was amended and passed by the Senate today. “As we see more and more service members return to civilian life after deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the opportunities and economic benefits that the federal government can provide will become even more critical, especially for business owners. Passing this legislation is the first step in ensuring that the brave men and women who put their lives on hold to defend our country will not also have to sacrifice their livelihoods.”

The bill is based on legislation Senators Kerry and Snowe introduced earlier this year, the Military Reservist and Veteran Small Business Reauthorization and Opportunity Act (S. 1784) and includes provisions from a House-passed bill sponsored by Congressman Altmire. Specifically, the legislation passed today by the Senate 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; and raising the maximum loan amount;
  • Require a Government Accountability Office report on the needs of service-disabled veterans and how to improve relations between employers and reservist employees;
  • Create the 7(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
  • Instruct the Associate Administrator of the Office of Veterans Business. Development to create and disseminate information aimed at informing women veterans about the resources available to them.