Economic Division Director Joe Sharpe told the House on Thursday that Congress needs to establish a lending program to help veteran-owned businesses procure low-interest loans.

'Why are veterans' businesses overlooked?'

Characterizing small business as the backbone of the U.S. economy, Economic Division Director Joe Sharpe has outlined ways, in The American Legion’s view, that veteran-owned small businesses can fare better in today’s tough economic times.

In Capitol Hill testimony before a U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee on Thursday, Sharpe conceded that the ongoing financial crisis has hit the entire small business community hard, but especially service-disabled veteran-owned businesses (SDVOBs). He urged Congress to establish a direct lending program with the Small Business Administration (SBA) that would “offer low-interest loans to otherwise healthy veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned business(es) that are having trouble obtaining the credit they need for necessary operating expenses or expansion.”

Sharpe also noted that SDVOBs are currently awarded a mere 1.01 percent of federal contract dollars available to all small businesses. Congress has mandated that 3 percent of federal small business-eligible contracts be given to SDVOBs. To encourage better compliance with this mandate – and to reach the Legion’s goal of a 5-percent federal contract award rate to vet businesses - Sharpe offered several ideas. They included establishing a partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the SBA to “assist veterans who are interested in participating in federal (contract) procurement” and “implementation of a coordinated standardized training program for procurement staff that focuses on SDVOB procurement strategies in their respective (federal) agencies.” On behalf of the Legion, Sharpe also asked that federal agency leadership be held responsible for meeting the congressionally mandated goal of awarding 3 percent of appropriate contracts to vet-owned businesses and hold agency leaders accountable for consistently failing to meet this goal.

“While this country struggles to regain economic stability,” Sharpe said, “The American Legion fails to understand why our nation’s veterans continue to be overlooked while they continue to serve this nation as business owners and employers.”

The American Legion annually conducts multi-day small business development workshops. These sessions are offered free of charge to veteran entrepreneurs.