WASHINGTON -- Today the Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill to provide an additional $600,000 in funding for veterans business resource centers in St. Louis, Mo., Boston, Mass., and Flint, Mich., which are on the brink of closing due to insufficient funding. Senator Kit Bond (R-Mo.) offered the amendment, which received support from Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) who all wrote letters to the appropriators, along with Senator Bond, expressing their strong support for funding for veterans business resource centers which help increase employment and business opportunities for veterans and reservists.

“Military service in Iraq and Afghanistan is a 24-7 education in leadership that troops bring home and can put to use in the private sector,” said Senator Kerry, Chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. “These centers help vets translate leadership skills from the battlefield to the workforce. With more and more brave troops returning home, now it is more crucial than ever that these centers stay open, and I thank Senator Bond for offering this amendment today.”

“I applaud the inclusion of vital funding for Veteran Business Resource Centers in the Supplemental,” said Senator Snowe, Ranking Member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. “With our men and women returning from service across the globe, it is crucial that we adequately provide for them upon their return to civilian employment. Whether they want to own a hardware store, operate a small restaurant, or run an Internet business, our veterans deserve more than just our gratitude – they deserve the very best assistance available. This essential funding will ensure that our nation’s veteran entrepreneurs have the resources critical to creating and growing their dreams.”

“Today's vote in support of our troops was an important step to keeping these important centers open," said Senator Bond. "We have a responsibility to help our troops transition back into society when they return from the battlefield and our vets centers are an important part of that transition.”

“Veterans Business Centers in Flint, Boston and St. Louis have proven their worth to veterans starting a small business,” said Senator Levin, Chairman of the Committee on Armed Services. “I applaud Senator Bond for recognizing their importance and offering this amendment to keep these centers funded so they can continue their mission of helping veterans start and expand small businesses, and I thank the members of the Appropriations Committee for their support.”

"Veterans Business Centers are good for veterans and good for the economy, helping entrepreneurs contribute while making a better future for their families," said Senator Akaka, Chairman of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "Many veterans put their business goals on hold to defend our Nation. They earned this support through their service and I am pleased this amendment delivers."

“The VetBizCentral in Flint, Michigan and other veterans business centers are an invaluable resource for our nation’s veterans, including those returning from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Senator Stabenow. “Thankfully, this amendment will provide the crucial funding needed to keep these critical centers open. From training programs to one-on-one business counseling, these centers benefit not only veterans, but their communities at large. Our nation’s veterans have sacrificed so much for our country, and they deserve nothing less than our full support.”

A recent report commissioned by the Department of Veterans Affairs found that the percentage of veterans not in the labor force jumped to 23 percent in 2005, a sharp increase from 10 percent in 2000. According to the report, 18 percent of veterans who left the military within the past one to three years were unemployed and a quarter earned less than $22,000.

Yesterday, the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held a roundtable on veterans unemployment issues during which several veterans and administration officials spoke out strongly about the value of the services provided by veterans business centers.

William D. Elmore, Associate Administrator, Office of Veteran Business Development, U.S. Small Business Administration:
“Everywhere you look across the federal sector, we have veteran’s specific program activity like the GI Bill, like the home loan program because it makes sense. It works… a veteran specific approach… is not only more cost effective, but also it is more service effective, because the first time a vet walks in the door, they are going to get an answer.”

Patrick Heavey, Executive Director of the St. Louis Veterans Business Resource Center, spoke about the importance of his centers for the local community:
“What we do know for sure, is that in fiscal years 2006 and 2007, we created 161 new businesses. And those new businesses employ an average of three people a piece…We put a lot of the emphasis and the impetus on the local communities to support their veterans, and we call upon our community, veterans to support our clients. There is a camaraderie that exists there, that is very hard to duplicate.”

William Levine, former member of the U.S. Navy and President of W.L. Concepts & Productions, in Uniondale, NY said at the roundtable:
“I want everybody here to know how important it is to maintain these programs. I’m a success and I’m sure there are going to be other people; we’ve just got to keep nourishing that ground and bringing up the people that serve this country.”

Roderick Rooney, a self-employed veteran, on getting help from a veteran at the center in Boston:
“I need that unconditional Espirit de Corps. He understood me…I did the hard work to educate myself and be a productive citizen and member of the country, but [the veterans business center] opened the door for me and allowed me to attend that 5 or 10 day course, and then offered me other avenues to do tangible things instead of floating resumes and waiting for another letter of rejection.”