The U.S. Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation that was cosponsored by U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and introduced by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) to help veteran entrepreneurs grow their small businesses and expand economic opportunity. The Veterans Small Business Enhancement Act, which now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives, would allow veteran small business owners to acquire equipment and property that the federal government no longer has a use for by adding veterans to the list of eligible recipients for federal surplus personal property, which already includes women and minority small business owners as well as Veterans Service Organizations. 

“When the men and women who have tirelessly served our nation come home and begin new careers in their communities, we owe them our support,” Kaine said. “That’s why one of my top priorities in the Senate has been easing servicemembers’ transition from active duty to the civilian workforce. I’m excited that this commonsense legislation brings us closer to that goal by helping veterans who own small businesses thrive and in turn strengthen their communities.”  

Kaine has focused in the Senate on supporting veterans, servicemembers, and their families. He’s been a leader on efforts to reduce unemployment for veterans and military spouses and ensure those who serve our nation receive the health care and benefits they were promised. The first bill Kaine introduced in the Senate – the Troop Talent Act of 2013 – was a bill to ease the transition for servicemembers into the civilian workforce. This year, Kaine introduced two bills – the Military Spouse Employment Act of 2018 and the Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act of 2018 – to reduce military spouse unemployment and support military families. Key provisions of these two military spouse bills were signed into law as part of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.

The General Services Administration has overseen distribution of federal surplus personal property for 15 years in partnership with the Small Business Administration and State Agencies for Surplus Property through the Federal Surplus Property Donation Program. When there is no federal need for excess property, SASPs disburse the property to eligible recipients who otherwise may have been unable to acquire it. This legislation is supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the National Association of State Agencies for Surplus Property, and the American Legion.

American Legion National Commander Brett P. Reistad has previously said: “The American Legion supports legislation that would give veteran-owned small businesses access to surplus federal property. Unclaimed surplus property costs the federal government millions of dollars to dispose of or maintain every year. This same surplus property may help small businesses offset the overhead expenses associated with opening a storefront or office, which benefits the United States.”

There are more than 2.5 million veteran-owned small businesses across the country, including approximately 76,000 in Virginia. As more Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans transition out of the military and begin their next career, this number will only increase.