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Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and his colleagues on the Senate Small Business Committee have passed bi-partisan legislation that would provide financial assistance and professional guidance to veterans who own small businesses.

The Small Business Committee unanimously approved the Senate version of H.R. 1568, the Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act Thursday. The bill would establish a network of veterans business assistance centers across the country through the federally chartered National Veterans Business Development Corporation.

"Our veterans provided the security that has allowed our country to become great. It's fitting for our country to help provide them with the financial security they need to start their own businesses," said Enzi. "More of our veterans will be serving our country once again by strengthening our communities because of the opportunity we are providing with this legislation."

Funding for the corporation would consist of $2 million in fiscal year 2000, $4 million in 2001 and 2002 and $2 million in FY 2003. The corporation will use the money to establish its offices and make startup loans to veterans who want to start up or expand their businesses. In 2001, the corporation will be required to match half of the funding it receives from the federal government with money raised in the private sector. In 2002 and 2003, federal money will have to be matched fully by private sector funds.

The corporation will be administered in conjunction with the Small Business Administration (SBA). The bill clarifies and re-emphasizes the responsibility of the SBA to include veterans in its programs providing financial and technical assistance. The bill sets a goal for those administering federal loans to lend service disabled veterans 3 percent of the total SBA loan money available. The bill would also provide access to economic injury disaster loans to small business military reservists who are called to active duty and create a system of outstanding loan deferral for those reservists.