View from the Assembly: Honoring Our Veterans

By state Assemblyman Will Barclay 

Memorial Day is a time for family picnics and parades.

More importantly however, it’s also a time we honor our veterans and pay homage to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in serving our country. As a state, we can always do more for those who have fought for our freedoms.  To that end, I sponsor and support a number of bills that will improve the lives of our  veterans.

To begin, I’m pleased that one of the bills I sponsored passed both houses of the state legislature and was signed into law this month. This legislation, also known as the “Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Act,” is designed to increase disabled veterans participation in state contracting opportunities.

Similar to what we do with minority- and women-owned businesses, this law would award up to 6 percent of all state contracts to businesses owned by disabled veterans.  I highlighted this law in a recent column, but it deserves mentioning again because it will provide more opportunities to veterans who are self employed.

While we want to help businesses owned by disabled veterans, I think it is also important to encourage employers to hire those who are sacrificing much in service to their communities and country.

That is why I also sponsor legislation that, if enacted, will provide a wage tax credit  for employers who employ members of the New York National Guard, reservists, volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel.

The credit would equal $1,500 per qualifying employee. These individuals are often called away on duty and, rather than the employer viewing this as a hindrance to business, the wage tax credit would provide an incentive for employers to retain these dedicated individuals.

While employment is a challenge for our veterans, home affordability is also an issue that we hear about from veterans attempting to make the transition back to civilian life.

Because military pay is relatively low, many veterans are unable to accumulate enough cash to pay for a down payment on a house once they leave military service even though they may qualify for a mortgage.

To help combat this issue and make homeownership affordable for our veterans, I support legislation that would provide veterans with the necessary funds to finance the down payment for a home.  The legislation would also provide rehabilitation funds for repairing distressed (and generally inexpensive) housing or funds to be used to purchase land upon which to build a new home.

In addition, the state Division of Veterans Affairs also offers veterans a Home for Veterans Program that provides some down payment and closing cost assistance on single-family homes, as well as preferred mortgage rates.

To learn more about current affordable housing programs for veterans visit http://www.veterans.ny.gov/ and click on “housing” at the top.

Another bill I support would provide for a distinctive license plate for gold star family members. It also would eliminate the registration fees for the distinctive plate for gold star mothers and other family members.

We currently provide a gold star license plate of distinction for gold star mothers, but there is a $28.75 fee.

We owe a debt of gratitude to our veterans and hopefully the legislation set forth above, when enacted, will make some aspects of transitioning from military to civilian life a little easier.

I hope you and your families enjoy your Memorial Day weekend and are also able to take a moment to remember, honor and thank those who have served our great country.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.

My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, New York 13069, by email at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling 598-5185.

You can also friend me, Assemblyman Will Barclay, on Facebook.

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