Washington - The Senate Small Business Committee yesterday passed legislation that would provide support and assistance to veterans who own small businesses. Senator John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), ranking member of the Small Business Committee, was an original co-sponsor of the Senate version of the legislation, the Veterans' Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999.

The legislation would make wide-ranging improvements in small business programs for veterans and sets an annual goal of 3 percent, worth up to as much a $6 billion in federal procurement contracts to small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans.

In addition, the legislation would establish a new National Veterans Business Development Corporation to help deliver small business assistance. Within the corporation will be a professional certification board established to standardize civilian and military certification and specialties in order to facilitate and reduce the costs of the transition from armed services to civilian jobs.

"This legislation would allow SBA and veterans groups to make real progress in expanding and strengthening small businesses owned by veterans and service-disabled veterans. It provides access to resources and assistance that will help them get their small businesses off the ground and keep them running," said Kerry.

The bill also incorporates the Kerry "Military Reservists Small Business Relief Act of 1999." The Kerry bill would allow deferrals and reduced interest rates on existing SBA loans for small business owners who are called to extended military duty and, for those hit hardest, access to SBA disaster loans.

"There is clearly strong support for this legislation that ensures that future reservists will not have to lose their businesses in order to serve their country in military conflict," Kerry continued. "I urge my colleagues to pass this bill on the Senate floor and I will continue to push for its swift passage."

The "Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999" passed the House of Representatives on June 29, 1999 and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.