WASHINGTON – Last night the Senate unanimously passed an amendment that will expand business opportunities for veterans and help reservists keep their businesses afloat during deployment. Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), Chairman and Ranking Member and member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, sponsored the amendment to the Defense Department authorization bill. Senators Joe Lieberman (I/D-Conn.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) cosponsored the amendment.

“America’s veterans and reservists sacrifice for their country – they shouldn’t have to sacrifice their jobs and their livelihoods when they come home,” said Kerry. “This bipartisan amendment will provide critical resources to business development programs for our veterans and reservists and hold federal agencies accountable. We owe our troops more than a simple thank you. The least we can do is provide the resources they need to keep their businesses afloat while they’re deployed and to start a business when they return.”

“In recent years, our nation’s Guard and Reserve forces have selflessly answered the call to duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Senator Snowe. “In fact, there have been nearly 3,000 Guard and Reserve deployments from my home state of Maine to those two countries since September 11, 2001. As our Reservists continue to answer our nation’s call to duty, we must similarly fulfill our responsibility to help protect their livelihoods back home. This amendment takes a significant step toward achieving that goal.”

The amendment 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). Specifically, the amendment 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;
  • Create National Reservist Enterprise Transition Teams through grants to Small Business Development Centers and other non-profits;
  • 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; and
  • Require a Government Accountability Office report on the needs of service-disabled veterans and how to improve relations between employers and reservist employees.