Promoting veteran entrepreneurship program can help power post-COVID-19 economy
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After weathering an unprecedented global pandemic, we are at last seeing life return to somewhat normal. Thanks to the work of the American Rescue Plan, the U.S. has vaccinated more than 153 million people in President BidenJoe BidenTrump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race GOP lawmakers request Cuba meeting with Biden For families, sending money home to Cuba shouldn't be a political football MORE’s first 150 days and put our economy back on a path to recovery. Businesses are opening up, jobless claims are at their lowest since the pandemic started, and our kids are enjoying summer and anticipating returning to their classes full time next month.

America’s small business success is critical for our recovery. Nearly half of all Americans either own or are employed by a small business, and small businesses generate 44 percent of our economic activity annually. For countless American small businesses, the emergency relief that my colleagues and I passed over the past year and a half has been a lifeline. Despite the relief provided, however, many small businesses have still been forced to permanently closed their doors, with many others struggling to hang on.

My colleagues and I have fought hard in Congress to keep small businesses afloat. In 2020, we passed the CARES Act, which included many provisions to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19. Congress funded two major federal programs to help businesses weather the crisis: the Economic Impact Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, an existing program granting emergency loans to businesses, and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a new program providing funding for businesses to pay their employees. Congress provided additional funding for these programs at the end of 2020. This winter, we passed the historic American Rescue Plan, which created additional programs for small businesses, and was signed into law on March 12, 2021.

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More work remains to help the small business that are the heart and soul of our neighborhoods, towns and villages. One of best things we can do to help these communities is to promote entrepreneurship, unleashing the America ingenuity that will power our nation into the post-covid, twenty-first century global economy. We need to create new and diverse pathways for Americans of all stripes, from all areas of the country, to cultivate their passions and learn the skills to create this new economy.

We will find these entrepreneurs in many places — in industry, in our schools, and in particular in our military. Every year thousands of men and women who have completed active duty service to our nation make the transition of civilian life. These people have gained extraordinary skills and experience, including from leadership, planning, problem solving, and adapting to constantly changing situations. Providing just a small investment in business training has demonstrably cultivated many successfully veteran entrepreneurs. More than 50,000 veterans and their spouses have participated in what is known as Boots to Business since the program launched in 2013.

That’s why I am proud to introduce the Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Act of 2021. This bill would formally codify into law the already successful Boots to Business program, and continue to provide returning service members with entrepreneurial training to start their own businesses.

The Boots to Business program offers exiting servicemembers a two-part training course on business ownership. As part of Boots to Business, servicemembers and their spouses take a two-day, in-person course followed by an eight-week, more in-depth online course. Boots to Business teaches veterans tangible skills they need to successfully launch a business, from how to research the market to funding their business.

The Boots to Business program is a bipartisan effort that I have championed for almost a decade Over the years, I’ve heard from many servicemembers-turned-small business owners who have directly benefited from the training provided in the Boots to Business Program. With so many communities seeking to replace the businesses that didn’t survive the pandemic, this program is now more important than ever.

I hope my colleagues in Congress will see as much value in these programs as I do. We have a long way to go in recovering from this crisis, but I’m proud of the work we have done so far and I know that we aren’t giving up the fight. Our small businesses deserve our undying support.

Schneider represents the 10th District of Illinois and is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.