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Bill strengthens support for veteran-owned small businesses

COURTESY: MGN ONLINE

The United States Senate unanimously passes a bill to strengthen veteran-owned small businesses.

Democrat Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin from Illinois, as well as Republican Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana, introduced the bill.

KHQA spoke with an Adams County Veteran Thursday who started Windy Hills Farm and Garden about a year ago.

It grows popcorn served in downtown Quincy at POPP'n on MAINE. He says assistance to start up and grow small businesses for veterans is vital.

James Altenhein has owned Wendy Hill Farm for about a year now.

"I'm glad that they are trying to recognizing the veterans within this program," Altenhein said.

That program is called the Veterans Small Business Enhancement Act. It offers more opportunities for veterans who are small business owners.

Altenhein served 22 years in the service, working full time for the United States National Guard in Springfield.

"There is not very many grants out there for veterans," Altenhein said. "There's low interest loans. From the USDA, they are looking at more educational grants and not so much as operational grants."

Three U.S Senators announced a bill Thursday with hopes to strengthen veteran-owned small businesses.

Two of those senators are from Illinois.

"With the passage of the Veterans Small Business Enhancement Act, veterans can now use GAO's federal property surplus program, which can help veterans save costs as they open new business and store fronts," Senator Dick Durbin said.

"When our veterans return home from their service, they deserve our full support as they transition back into civilian life, and that includes supporting their efforts to build and manage a small business," Senator Tammy Duckworth said.

Altenhein grew up raising commercial crops on his family farm and now has decided to grow alternative crops.

"Growing bare hops and this year has been really successful with a brand of popcorn called Catahoula Blue."

He says he'll be interested to see the criteria that veterans will have to meet if approved.

"If veterans are in some business program in the community, I think it is something we should all pay attention to," Altenhein said.

This legislation will now head to the house for a vote.

Senator Duckworth says she'll be working with Senators Durbin and Kennedy as well as members on both sides of the aisle to send this bill to the president's desk.

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