Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate Majority Coalition Co-Leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver today announced an agreement on legislation to facilitate the awarding of six percent of state contracts to service-disabled veteran owned small businesses using several tools including set-asides. By comparison, the federal governments goal for awarding contracts to veteran-owned businesses is only three percent and no other state in the nation offers as robust a program which includes set-aside contracts to these small businesses.
The proposed legislation will also create a Division of Service-Disabled Veterans Business Development within the Office of General Services (OGS) that would coordinate the program and encourage State agencies to provide additional opportunities for Veterans to participate more equitably in State contracting.
This bill represents an unprecedented step forward in how New York State honors the contributions of its veterans, Governor Cuomo said. Increasing economic opportunities for New Yorks service-disabled veterans is a tremendous way to thank the brave men and women of our armed forces for their sacrifice. I am proud that New York is leading the nation on this issue, and I thank the leaders of the Legislature for helping to make this bill a reality.
Senate Co-Leader Dean G. Skelos said, I am pleased that we have reached an agreement to pass legislation, approved 3 years in a row in the Senate, to provide small businesses owned by disabled veterans a real opportunity to win state contracts - - honoring these authentic New York heroes. I thank Senator Ball for spearheading this effort, and for his tireless work on behalf of all veterans, and commend the Governor for helping us move this critical issue forward.
Senate Co-leader Jeff Klein said, "With a new generation of veterans returning home from combat, we have an obligation to support these heroes and their families by leveling the playing field. This bill will empower our disabled veterans as small business owners by allowing them to roll up their sleeves and embrace the entrepreneurial spirit. Last year, the Independent Democratic Conference was proud to introduce the first "Jobs for Heroes" tax credit, and this year we're thrilled to do even more."
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Our veterans have made sacrifices for the love of their country that are far beyond our scope of understanding and our gratitude toward them is unwavering. In New York we have made it a priority to do what we can to provide veterans with the resources they need to make a successful transition into civilian life. But more can always be done. The Veterans Contract program takes a significant step forward in achieving these goals and helping these honorable, selfless men and women find real, sustainable employment here in New York.
Senator Greg Ball said, New Yorkers can stand tall and proud today knowing that we have kept Americas promise to our veterans and service disabled heroes. This landmark legislation will create tens of thousands of jobs for veterans statewide and will allow service disabled veteran small business owners to tap into hundreds of millions of dollars in state contracting. This single act will do more to reverse the high veteran unemployment rate than anything else we have done, or will do. Yet beyond just creating jobs, this is about saving lives, and confronting the epidemic of veteran suicide through meaningful employment. We have been fighting to establish this set aside for years and I want to sincerely thank Governor Cuomo for giving us the backing we desperately needed at a critical time. Governor Cuomo is to be applauded for keeping his commitment to our heroes. Let it be clear that this is not a handout; this is an opportunity for both employee and employer. These men and women have the exact skill sets we need in the workplace and the integrity we desperately need in the board room. The same attributes that make these people so vital to defending our freedoms are the same hard earned intangibles that make them exceptional at running their businesses and creating jobs. This is what good people can accomplish when they forget the politics and just focus on doing the right thing. Bravo to all involved, bravo!
Assembly Member Felix Ortiz said, The Veterans Contract program is a much-needed initiative that will give our states veterans the opportunities to succeed here in New York that they so rightfully deserve. Gainful employment is just the first of many different obstacles that veterans often struggle with upon their return home. For these brave men and women, aiding their search with such a common-sense program is the least we can do.
Every year, the State procures billions of dollars in goods and services for the benefit of the people of New York. The expansion of economic opportunity through the significant purchasing power of the State is but one way to thank service-disabled veterans for their honorable service to our country and to help reintegrate them back into the States economy.
Governor Cuomo has made job assistance for veterans a hallmark of his administration. His Experience Counts initiative translates veterans military skills and experiences into opportunities for employment, and his $74 million tax credit encourages employers to hire New Yorks post-9/11 veterans who are currently unemployed.
New York is home to nearly 900,000 veterans, 72 percent of whom have served during periods of conflict.