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BK veterans return home to joblessness

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War might be hell in the desert of Iraq and mountains of Afghanistan, but finding work back home in Brooklyn is no cakewalk, according to government statistics.

Of the borough’s 57,612 veterans, 4,206 are unemployed in 2009 up from 3,053 in 2008, and the unemployment among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is nearly 15 percent statewide.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand reminded businesses last week of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which was expanded earlier this as part of the Economy Recovery Plan. Businesses that hire a veteran who has been out of service no more than five years will get a 40 percent write off of the first $6,000 paid to the veteran.

“Too many veterans are coming home to a very bad job market and unable to find work,” said Gillibrand. “They fulfilled their duty to our country, and now it’s time for us to fulfill our duty to them by making sure they have access to a good-paying job. The tax breaks we put in place earlier this year are a win-win for businesses and veterans, but we need to make sure businesses know they are available and take advantage of them by hiring more veterans.”

Additionally, Gillibrand is introducing the Veterans’ Business Center (VBC) Act of 2009 %u2013 legislation that would help veterans gain access to capital and federal grant money to start new businesses and grow existing ones.

Modeled on the Small Business Administra­tion’s Women Business Center program, the new national network of VBCs would help veterans navigate federal grant programs to start new businesses, and offer expert guidance for veterans working to start or grow their businesses.

The legislation would provide each VBC with up to $150,000 each year for up to five years, leveraging at least 50 percent from private investments or other sources.

Gillibrand said she plans on writing every chamber of commerce in the state to set up VBCs.

Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Carl Hum said the chamber currently does not have a Women Business Center, but it welcomes the senators help in trying to help veterans.

“Veterans are an important part of our community. The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce has traditionally helped our business community launch and start new businesses and this should go well with our mission and focus,” said Hum.

Hum said he was not familiar with the Work Opportunity tax credit program for businesses that hires veterans, but it sounds like similar wage subsidy programs.

“These type of programs have been not only been effective in reintroducing dislocated workers in the workplace, but also for spurring employment growth,” he said.

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