Statements from John Kerry on Monday's Field Hearing on Small Businesses and Military Reservists

On Monday I reported that John Kerry held a field hearing at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., on the impact of deployments on National Guard and Reservists who own or work for small businesses. This is an issue that Kerry has been very vocal about for some time. I have posted other pieces on this issue here, here and here. The opening and closing statements by John Kerry are posted below:

Senator Kerry’s Opening Statement from Field Hearing on Small Businesses and Military Reservists Monday, September 19, 2005

The first and best definition of patriotism is keeping faith with those who wear our uniform. That means giving our troops the resources they need to keep safe while they’re keeping us safe. And it means supporting our troops at home as well as abroad.

We are here today because many of us believe our troops are not being adequately supported at home. Too many military reservists and National Guard members suffer a pay cut when called to defend our nation. Some of these citizen soldiers are vital to protecting America, like the members of the 181st Infantry of the Massachusetts Army National Guard who recently returned from fighting terrorism nobly in Baghdad, and are today are saving lives in New Orleans. These men and women are much more than weekend warriors. The all-volunteer army depends on them. They have been serving our country with distinction and pride for many years, and should not be penalized financially for their honorable service.

The recent tragedy of Hurricane Katrina reminds us of the important role reservists serve. We have all read the stories of Louisiana reservists who have been serving in Iraq who came home to find that they lost everything. I am pleased to have worked with the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee to include a provision in the Hurricane Katrina Tax Relief legislation that would assist our reservists. But there is much work left to be done.

Most large businesses have the resources to provide supplemental income to reservist employees called up, and to replace them with a temporary employee. I applaud the businesses that have been able to pay supplemental income to their reservists. But it’s not that easy for the small businesses that make up 99% of all U.S. businesses. We have countless small business that want to do the right thing, but just can’t afford it.

So today we will discuss several proposals I have put forth to help reservists and small businesses. The first is the Small Business Reservist Tax Credit Act, legislation myself and others have proposed to help our small businesses do the right thing. The bill will provide a tax credit to small businesses who continue to pay the salary of their reservist employees when they are called up to active duty to serve in Iraq, Afghanistan or New Orleans. It provides a 40 percent tax credit for up to $25,000 to make up any difference in pay for any small business with up to 100 employees and an additional 40 percent tax credit for up to $15,000 to offset the cost of hiring a temporary replacement. I have also introduced the Military Family Bill of Rights which will provide economic injury disaster grants, loans and technical assistance to help small businesses survive when a reservist employee is called up to active duty.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses to get an idea of how we can improve this legislation, and learn what else we can do. These hearings are inevitably so much more valuable than those held in Washington. But more than anything, I look forward to our witnesses underscoring the importance of this issue for those in Washington who have voted against such measures in the past. I just want to tell you one story that has always inspired me to want to get this done.

Pedro Sotelo, a 33 year-old veteran from Kansas City, was a reservist for nine years. From 1997 to 2004, he was called up to active duty 10 times. With each activation he saw his income drop from $60,000 a year as a sheet metal worker to $30,000 a year as an Army Staff Sergeant. When he would go away to serve his country time and time again, his bills would pile up, and his credit rating would plummet. Eventually, this financial strain contributed to the end of Pedro Sotelo’s marriage, and the end of his service in the reserves.

Pedro Sotelo and the hundreds of thousands of reservists in America deserve better. I hope that our work here today to help our reservists and the small businesses that employ them can ensure that our great tradition of citizen soldiers does not fade or end because of the effect service can have on work and family.

I want to thank Boston College for hosting this important hearing. And I especially want to thank our witnesses for taking the time to be with us today, and having the courage to serve a country that has too often failed to serve them.

Today, we will hear from Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the Director of the Congressional Budget Office, which earlier this year released a report on the effects of reserve call-ups on civilian employers, particularly small businesses. We will also hear from Marshall Hanson, the Legislative Director of the Reserve Officers Association of the United States, which has been a critical voice for our military reservists in Washington and around the nation. Next we will hear from Ken Forchielli, the State Chairman of the Massachusetts Committee for the Employers Support of the Guard and Reserves, to learn more about the needs of our military reservists. Finally, we will hear from a Massachusetts small business owner and a reservist who will tell us of the problems they have experienced first hand.

Senator Kerry’s Closing Statement from Field Hearing on Small Businesses and Military Reservists
Monday, September 19, 2005

I want to thank Boston College and all of our witnesses for their testimony and for the frank discussion on the issues facing small businesses and their military reservist employees. This hearing has shown that the continuing activation of military reservists to serve in Iraq, the war on terror and to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina has imposed a significant burden on many of our country’s small businesses. Also, our reservists who are called away from their jobs to serve our country, whether in Iraq or New Orleans, should not have to risk their homes, jobs or family’s finances to do so.

I believe the Federal government must take immediate action to help small businesses weather the loss of an employee to active duty and protect reservist employees and their families while they serve our nation. That is why I have been working in Washington to provide patriotic small business employers with a tax credit when they supplement the salary of their reservists when they are called up to active duty.

We must do everything possible to ensure that our great tradition of citizen soldiers does not end because of the effect service has on work and family. Again, I want to thank our witnesses for their help.

Also read this related story from the Boston Globe: A Reserve Officer Details the Sacrifices of Giving up His Civilian Life.

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About Pamela Leavey

Pamela Leavey is the Editor in Chief, Owner/Publisher of The Democratic Daily as well as a freelance writer and photographer. Pamela holds a certificate in Contemporary Communications from UMass Lowell, a Journalism Certificate from UMass Amherst and a B.A. in Creative Writing and Digital Age Communications from UMass Amherst UWW.
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