WASHINGTON (Gray DC) – Many servicewomen and men are opting for college degrees through the GI Bill, but a proposal in the US House of Representatives could give veterans more options in determining their future.
Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.) introduced a bill that would start a 3-year pilot program to allow up to 250 GI Bill benefit-eligible veterans to receive training and scholarships to start a small business establish.
Read Rep. Cline’s bill: Veterans Entrepreneurship Act
“So the bill would create a pilot program to help veterans start small businesses. Veterans receive GI Bill benefits, which include three years and 36 months of college tuition. And that kind of support really helps veterans get the education they deserve. This would provide them with an alternative, a way to continue pursuing their dreams while also giving them the opportunity to start a small business and give back to their communities in other ways,” said Cline, who introduced the bill last year. He hopes to generate enough buzz around the bill to get the measure passed by next year.
That Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2021 would allow Veterans to access resources through the Small Business Administration (SBA) and their GI Bill benefit.
- The program requires an application process and participation in an accredited entrepreneurship education program
- Veterans must develop a business plan, which must 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 match the GI Bill maximum of 36 months of educational assistance at the rate applicable to each veteran under the GI Bill benefits program
- If approved, the grant can be used by a veteran to open their own business or acquire a franchise
“I look forward to it. And I think it’s going to be a great program that’s going to take off and be really, really successful if we just get that first step of the pilot program going,” Cline said.
Cline noted that he represents a number of veterans in his 6th District in Virginia. He said that given the current economic climate and inflation, this program would help seasoned business owners get on the right foot when entering the market.
“A lot of them (veterans) want to pursue higher education and we have a lot of different options in the 6th Ward.” But others don’t. And there are many who would love to start small businesses, many who actually have. About 10% of small businesses are owned by veterans. But we need to support them more as they try to start these small businesses. And this is an opportunity that really gives these veterans a big boost as they try to start their small businesses,” he said.
Cline has bipartisan support for the measure. He was assisted by Congressman Lou Correa (D-Calif.) in introducing the bill.
“Really, support for veterans has no partisan bias one way or the other. It’s a bipartisan effort. And when it comes to expanding opportunities for veterans, there’s a bipartisan support network behind that, too,” Cline said. “That’s why I spoke to veterans who are members of the House of Representatives and also to the chairs of the Veterans and Small Business Affairs Committee about the bill. And hopefully we can create enough buzz to take off when Congress comes back next year. And we can make this one of the first bills we pass.”
US Army veteran Perry “Ace” Taylor said he thinks it’s a “great idea.” He said he wished he had that option when he left the service.
Taylor served as a computer specialist. He was deployed in Egypt, Sinai and Kuwait. He now works with several veterans’ organizations, including the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations, the Roanoke Valley Veterans Council, and Disabled American Veterans.
“For soldiers, the transition from active duty to separation or retirement is very difficult to manage. They used to be responsible managers and executives. Now they are starting from the bottom and struggling with civilian life,” he said, adding that the program would allow ex-servicemen to use the skills they have already acquired to take the next step in their lives.
Taylor said the program had another key benefit.
“The experienced small business owners will hire more veterans, causing a potential ripple effect in hiring veterans. Veterans help veterans. It will give our veterans a mission,” he said, later adding, “It gives them a chance to have another tool in their toolbox. Other options.”
The community members Taylor added can 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 to return to civilian life.
“You have to be that support network for veterans. you really do I can’t stress this enough. You really need that support. America Veterans need your support. The debt actually owed. The True Debt America Owes to Its Veterans. And I speak from the bottom of my heart because that’s important to me,” he said.
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