The Sunday Boston Globe has a telling piece on the toll that Guard duty has taken on the self-employed National Guard — For self-employed, Guard duty has a price.
Self-employed Guardsmen do “not enjoy the job protection that businesses are required by federal law to extend to their workers.” However, as the article points out, John Kerry has been fighting for the rights of these Guardsmen and protection for their businesses for years…
”There’s really not a whole lot to help somebody who’s self-employed,” said Major Rob Palmer, a Defense Department spokesman. ”It’s a major shortcoming of the law.”
Senator John F. Kerry, who has proposed a Military Family Bill of Rights to offer financial help to the self-employed, assailed the Bush administration for speaking publicly about the need to support the troops, but failing to enact an economic safety net for all vulnerable National Guard members and reservists.
”It’s a serious problem. There’s a real hidden cost of the war for these guys,” Kerry said. ”The bottom line is they’re getting hurt, and nobody is paying attention.”
Palmer estimates 10 percent of Army National Guard soldiers who have been deployed overseas are either self-employed or work in small businesses. According to the most recent data from the National Guard Bureau, 126,488 Army National Guard troops have served in Iraq or Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. Currently, 54,444 Army National Guard soldiers are deployed in those countries.
A package of proposed tax credits, grants, and emergency loans to help self-employed Guardsmen remains in legislative limbo on Capitol Hill. The bill’s proposal to provide small-business grants of $25,000 for companies hurt by National Guard deployments would have allowed Big Daddy Taxi to survive, said its former owner, James Maddix Jr., 30, a National Guard sergeant who filed for bankruptcy when he returned to Lansing, Mich., from a yearlong deployment to Iraq.
Since 2001, the Small Business Administration has offered low-interest loans for self-employed members of the National Guard to help cover operating costs during deployments. Maddix, however, said he had never heard about the program, which originally was cosponsored by Kerry to aid soldiers activated during the Kosovo crisis.
Instead of coming to the aid of these members of the National Guard, the republicans have held Kerry’s bill in limbo since February…
Kerry’s legislative package has been pending since February in the Senate Finance Committee, where a spokeswoman for the Republican committee chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said the bill is ”under review.”
Under the Military Family Bill of Rights, the federal government also would distribute low-interest loans up to $100,000 to help veterans start new small businesses. Kerry also is pushing for tax credits up to $10,000 per person for small businesses that make up the difference in pay for employees deployed with the Guard or reserves. And the senator has proposed a $6,000-per-person tax credit for small businesses that hire temporary employees during these deployments.
It’s time for the Bush administration to step up to the plate and give self-employed Guardsmen a fair shot…
The current SBA loan program does not apply to National Guard members whose businesses have failed during deployment, said Carol Chastang, an SBA spokeswoman.
Lawyer Blaine Hudnall, 36, of Des Moines, has found himself rebuilding his one-lawyer practice from the ground up since he returned from Iraq in January.
”I had 40 open files at any time when I was deployed. Now, I have 10,” Hudnall said in his one-room rented office, squeezed between a coin laundromat and an auto-parts store. ”I had a secretary then. Now, I do all my own typing. I do all my own filing. I’m working 16-hour days.”
Hudnall, who is single, said he grossed $50,000 in 2003. This year, he expects to make no more than $25,000.
”They’re spending tens of thousands of dollars on bonuses and tuition assistance, but there’s not really anything for the small businessperson,” said Hudnall, a National Guard captain. ”You get a lot of lip service to small businesses. But when it comes to tax breaks, they always seem to be aimed at big business.”