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Statement of the Hon. Nydia M. Velazquez on Military to Main Street: Serving Veteran Entrepreneurship

More than 200,000 service members transition from military to civilian life every year. These veterans take skills gained during their service and go on to make a substantial impact across many areas of American life. Some go to school, some pursue new vocations in the private sector, and many go on to start small businesses. 

As members of this committee know, starting a small business isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes courage, wits, and leadership to achieve the American dream of owning a successful enterprise. And that is precisely why the men and women that serve our country in the military are naturally suited to become entrepreneurs.    

Former service members own approximately 1.8 million businesses across the United States, most of which are small. These businesses employ millions of workers, are responsible for over $1 trillion in revenue, and do so much for their communities. 

That is why it’s concerning to see that veteran self-employment rates have declined from 16 percent in 1998 to 11 percent in 2018. To reverse this trend, we must do all we can to reduce barriers to entrepreneurship for those that have served our country. 

Like all entrepreneurs, veteran business owners express concern about their ability to access capital. But they also cite other issues such as not knowing how to get started, accessing technical assistance, and finding a mentor. 

Fortunately, the SBA has a range of counseling, training, and lending options tailored to the needs of veterans and their families. Today, I want to look closely at these programs and discuss ways to improve these offerings to operate more effectively and reach more veterans.  

During the 117th Congress, we’ve taken steps to empower veterans and military families who want to start or grow their businesses. For example, last summer, our committee passed the Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Act of 2021, which was introduced by Rep. Brad Schneider and Vice-Ranking Member Williams.

The bill would codify the Boots to Business Program, which offers transitioning service members and military spouses information about self-employment and business ownership. 

The legislation passed the House last fall, and a companion bill was recently reported favorably by the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. We hope the bill will pass the Senate soon. 

This is a prime example of the actions that Congress can take to make it easier for veterans to get their businesses up and running.  

Today, I look forward to hearing from representatives from across the veteran entrepreneurial ecosystem about the challenges veteran entrepreneurs face and how SBA programs can continue to improve. I hope that your testimony will shed light on how these offerings helped, where they fell short, and what Congress can do to ensure these programs meet veteran entrepreneurs' needs.
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