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Federal bill would give vet-owned businesses access to surplus equipment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., have introduced legislation that would give veteran-owned small businesses access to surplus federal property.

The move would help such businesses reduce overhead costs and potentially grow, they said in a joint statement Thursday.

The Veterans Small Business Enhancement Act would expand the Government Service Administration’s excess federal property program, which makes available items that federal agencies no longer need – from computers and office furniture to tools and construction equipment.

“This bill encourages small business growth and gives veterans new opportunities succeed,” Durbin said. “Veterans throughout Illinois have already contacted me to let me know how the surplus property program could help them reduce overhead costs and invest those resources in growing their business and creating jobs.”

“This bill provides long-awaited solutions for small businesses and veterans, both of which power our economy and are critical to continued job growth in Connecticut and across the country,” Blumenthal said. “In communities everywhere, veterans manufacture products, provide services, and employ their neighbors. Expanding these resources to the men and women who served our country will allow them to fuel our economy.”

During a speech on the Senate Floor, Durbin highlighted the stories of veteran-owned small businesses throughout Illinois that he said would benefit from this program:

· Jim Ward is a retired Army veteran who owns a popular tile company in Mount Sterling. Ward’s small business could benefit from maintenance equipment typically found in the federal surplus program, including tile-saws and cutters, knee pads, mixers, scrapers, trowels and other hand tools.

· Jim Sodaro owns a bar and a snow removal business in Springfield. There are quite a few surplus items that would help him operate his businesses and free up his resources for paying employees and overhead. The bar could benefit from things like tables, brooms, paint, and hand tools, and the snow removal business needs a pick-up truck or other vehicle.

· Jason Harris is a Marine Corps veteran who runs a landscaping business in Carbondale, Illinois. “Shawnee Landscaping” designs and installs patios, fencing, and retaining walls for gardens and porches. This small business would benefit from federal surplus equipment – everything from bobcats, tractors and loaders, to hand tools, and office supplies.

· Thomas Lomelino is a retired Army veteran and owner of the Lomelino Sign Co. in Jacksonville. Lomelino makes and installs advertising signs. His company could use a bucket truck, a backhoe, or other equipment needed for installation and maintenance of signs.

The Government Service Administration’s excess federal property program allows participants to claim items for their business if they demonstrate a justifiable need for the property and they agree to pay for shipping and handling. Minority-owned small businesses have participated in the program since 1999, and the Veterans Small Business Enhancement Act would allow veteran-owned small businesses to participate, as well.

The program benefits both the federal government and the non-profits and small businesses that participate in it. If unclaimed, the federal government must dispose of the excess property – a costly and time-consuming undertaking. The National Association of State Agencies for Surplus Property, which helps facilitate the GSA’s excess federal property program, estimates that taking surplus property off the federal government’s hands and pairing it with those who could use it saved the U.S. $200 million in 2013.

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