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Kansas Democrat, Missouri Republican team up on bill to help veterans own businesses

Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), the chairwoman of the New Democrat Coalition, speaks to reporters alongside Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH), Scott Peters (D-CA), Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) outside of the West Wing of the White House on March 30, 2022, in Washington, DC. The coalition met with U.S. President Joe Biden to discuss Biden’s domestic agenda and how to move forward with new legislation since the failure to pass Build Back Better in the U.S. Senate. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/TNS)

When it was Rep. Mark Alford’s time to speak in the House Committee on Small Business this May, the freshman Missouri Republican said there was a problem when it came to helping veterans start businesses.

“While the Small Business Administration has programs helping veterans, they’re not always utilized,” Alford said. “And we need to find out why that is and how do we change them so they are utilized.”

Rep. Sharice Davids, a Kansas Democrat, felt similarly. She sponsored a bill in 2019 that cleared the House of Representatives, but failed to pass the Senate. And she was looking for a Republican sponsor to join her in introducing the bill again.

Two months later, Davids and Alford are introducing the SERV act, a bill that aims to identify the challenges facing veterans when they attempt to start a business. The bill would commission a report by the Government Accountability Office on the ability for veterans to access credit and would require an action plan for how Congress would make changes.

The 2019 version of the bill passed the House with only three no votes.

“Because of their sense of service and dedication, there are few people better situated to become entrepreneurs than our nation’s veterans, but they face far too many obstacles when starting their business,” said Davids, whose mother served in the Army. “We must do a better job setting Kansas City area veterans up for success, and that’s why I’m honored to lead the SERV Act alongside Representative Alford.”

After World War II, around 50% of veterans went on to start a business. After the Korean War, in the 1950s, around 40% of veterans went on to start a business. Today, the percentage has dropped to just 4.5% of the 3.6 million veterans who served after September 11, 2001.

While it is unclear why the number has dropped so significantly, Davids and Alford point to issues veterans face when trying to access the credit necessary to open businesses and the transition to civilian life.

Alford represents a district with two military bases, Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood, and a large veteran presence. He invited Taylor Burks, a veteran who Alford defeated in the Republican primary for his House seat, to speak to the House Committee on Small Business about how the government can help more veterans start businesses.

“This bill is our first step in doing that,” Alford said. “It is a win for our districts, a win for veterans, and a win for our country. I am proud to co-lead the SERV Act with my colleague Rep. Davids who represents our neighboring district to promote veteran entrepreneurship.”


© 2023 The Kansas City Star

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