Obama, SBA and Senate take aim at veteran unemployment
WASHINGTON POST – Obama, SBA and Senate take aim at veteran unemployment
By J.D. Harrison
Posted at 04:45 PM ET, 11/08/2011
A day after the president and U.S. lawmakers took steps to help military veterans find work, federal officials presented a plan to help them create their own jobs — and perhaps some for their fellow Americans, too.
On Tuesday, the Small Business Administration released the first report from Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development, a coalition organized by the president last April comprised of seven federal agencies and four veteran advocacy groups. The report suggests 18 initiatives the government should take in order to increase the number of businesses owned by service men and women and increase the number of people those businesses employ.
The recommendations cover three priority areas — increasing opportunities for growth, reducing barriers to growth and expanding counseling services — and include increasing the percent of microloans extended to veterans to match the overall percentage of veteran-owned businesses, offering additional marketing resources to veteran groups, and establishing a Veteran Entrepreneur Training program.
American veterans own 2.4 million businesses (9 percent of the nation’s total) and employ about 6 million workers, according to the report, which lifts those numbers to 3.7 million businesses and 8.2 million employees when expanded to include companies at least half-owned by service men and women.
“Over the past three years I’ve traveled all around the country and met with dozens of veteran small business owners and entrepreneurs, and one thing we know is that veteran skills translate very well into entrepreneurship,” SBA Administrator Karen Mills told members of the media Tuesday. She also noted that the SBA extended 4,300 loans to former members of the military in 2010 for a total of more than $1.5 billion.
Nevertheless, 850,000 military veterans are among the 14 million currently unemployed Americans, and the unemployment rate among service men and women who served in Afghanistan and Iraq (12.1 percent) hovers well above the national average (9.0 percent).
The Task Force is among several arms of government moving to help them find work in the days leading up to Veteran’s Day. President Obama has also announced three new administrative efforts aimed at increasing veterans’ employment prospects, including a “gold card” program that provides six months of free job-search services and a Web site that recommends openings based on military experience.
Over on the Hill, the Senate passed a test vote on Monday allowing lawmakers to consider a bill that would provide tax credits to employers who hire those who have been long unemployed. The proposal, which will be debated later this week, would offer up to $9,600 to businesses that bring in disabled veterans who have been jobless for longer than six months.
“There’s no good reason to oppose this bill. Not one,” Obama said in his Rose Garden speech on Monday. “It’s time for [us] to put country before party, put our veterans back to work.”