Veterans could get a grant to start their own small businesses under this bill proposal
Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.) says he hopes his bill will be one of the first things Congress will pass in 2023.
WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Plenty of service men and women decide to pursue college degrees through the GI Bill, but a proposal in the U.S. House could give veterans more options in determining their futures.
Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.) has introduced a bill that would launch a 3-year pilot program to enable up to 250 GI Bill benefit-eligible veterans to gain training and grants to start a small business.
Read Rep. Cline’s bill: Veterans Entrepreneurship Act
“So the bill would create a pilot program to help veterans launch small businesses. Veterans get the GI Bill benefits, which is three years, 36 months of college tuition. And that type of support really does help veterans to get the education that they have earned. This would provide them with an alternative, a way to continue to pursue their dreams while giving them the opportunity to start a small business and give back to their communities in a different way,” said Cline, who first introduced the bill last year. He hopes to generate enough buzz around the bill to pass the measure by next year.
The Veterans Entrepreneurship Act would allow veterans to access resources through the Small Business Administration (SBA) and their GI Bill benefit.
- The program requires an application process and requires participation in an approved entrepreneurial training program
- Veterans are required to develop a business plan to be approved by their training program advisor and the SBA’s Associate Administrator for Veterans Business Development
- The grant available to veterans participating in this pilot program may be equivalent to the GI Bill maximum amount of 36 months of educational assistance at the rate in effect for each veteran through the GI Bill benefit program
- If approved, the grant can be used by a veteran to open their own business or purchase a franchise
Find resources currently offered to veterans through the Small Business Administration here
“I’m excited about it. And I think it’s going to be a great program that will take off and become really, really successful if we can just get through that first step of the pilot program,” said Cline.
Cline noted that he represents a number of veterans in his 6th district of Virginia. He said with the current state of the economy and inflation, this program would help veteran business owners get off on the right foot as they enter the marketplace.
“Many of them (veterans) want to pursue higher education and we’ve got a lot of different opportunities in the 6th district. But, others don’t. And there are many who would love to start small businesses, many who have in fact. About 10% of small businesses are veteran-owned. But we need to give them more support as they try and launch these small businesses. And this is one way that really does give a big boost to those veterans as they seek to start their small businesses,” he said.
Cline has bipartisan support for the measure.
“Really, support for veterans doesn’t have a partisan bent one way or the other. It’s a bipartisan effort. And so, when it comes to expanding opportunities for veterans, that too has a bipartisan support network behind it,” said Cline. “So I’ve been talking to veterans who are members of the House and also the chairs of the Committees on Veterans Affairs and Small Business about the bill.”
U.S. Army Veteran Perry “Ace” Taylor said he believes it is a ‘great idea.’ He said he wished he had that option when he left the service.
Taylor served as computer specialist. He was deployed in Egypt, Sinai, and Kuwait. Now, he works with multiple veterans organizations including the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations, the Roanoke Valley Veterans Council, and the Disabled American Veterans.
“Soldiers find the transition from active duty to separation or retirement very hard to adjust to. They used to be in-charge managers and leaders. Now, they’re starting over at the bottom and they’re struggling with civilian life,” he said, adding he believes the program would allow former soldiers to use their already acquired skills to take charge of the next step of their life.
Taylor said the program would also have one other key benefit.
“The veteran small business owners will hire more veterans, causing a possible ripple ripple effect in veteran hiring. Veterans helping veterans. It will give our veterans a mission,” he said, adding later, “it gives them a chance to have another tool in their toolbox. Another option.”
Taylor added community members can also continue to support veterans in other ways by spending time with them, listening to them, and talking to them. He has this message for families who may have veterans in their lives who are struggling with the return to civilian life.
“You need to be that support network for veterans. You really do. I can’t emphasize that enough. They really need that support. America veterans need your support. The real debt owed. The real debt owed that America has to its veterans. And, I’m speaking wholeheartedly because I care about that,” he said.
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