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Obama offers details on new veterans jobs proposal

President Obama called for a broad-based effort to bolster veterans employment, particularly among those vets returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Obama on Feb. 3 called for a broad-based effort to bolster veterans employment, particularly among those vets returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The proposed plan—which the president alluded to in his recent state of the union address—would provide incentives to communities to employ vets as police officers and firefighters, would connect vets with jobs aimed at rebuilding communities and national parks, and would provide entrepreneurial training to vets who want to enter business.

Obama detailed the initiatives at a fire station at Arlington, Va., accompanied by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and International Association of Firefighters President Harold Schaitberger.

The first responder hiring effort would be fueled by a proposed $166 million in funding for Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) hiring grants in 2012, and $320 million in 2012 for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants. Preference would go to communities that recruit and hire post-9/11 vets as police and firefighters. The fiscal 2013 budget would include $4 billion in COPS funding and $1 billion for SAFER grants—again, with preference given to communities hiring post-9/11 vets.

The proposal also would dedicate $1 billion to develop a Veterans Job Corps conservation program to employ up to 20,000 vets over the next five years. Jobs would include “providing visitor programs, restoring habitat, protecting cultural resources, eradicating invasive species, and operating facilities.” Vets also would be employed to repair and rehabilitate trails, roads, levees, recreation facilities and other assets. This program would cover all vets, with a special focus on post-9/11 vets.

Additionally, the proposal would expand entrepreneurship training opportunities for separating service members and vets. In addition to the joint DOD-VA-Small Business Administration two-day entrepreneurship program available to service members transitioning out of the military, vets after separation now would get access to an eight-week, SBA-provided online entrepreneurial training program aimed at about 10,000 vets per year. The initiative also calls for expanding existing veterans’ programs and partnerships aimed at entrepreneurship and small business development.

But as Obama also pointed out, “Congress needs to fund these projects.”

“Congress should take the money that we’re no longer spending on war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building here at home … and put our veterans to work,” he said.

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