Legislators introduce bipartisan bill to support disabled veteran business owners

TRENTON – Assemblymen Ryan Peters, Bruce Land and Matthew Milam introduced a bipartisan bill Monday to jumpstart New Jersey’s Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business program.

The program was implemented in 2015 and established a goal that state contracting agencies set aside 3 percent of their contracts for disabled veteran owned businesses. Since then, the program has not begun to meet its goal of awarding contracts to disabled veterans.

“Not one dollar has been awarded. Millions of dollars could’ve been going to disabled veteran owned businesses in the last three years, but instead, they haven’t seen a single penny,” said Peters (R-Burlington). “We need to fix this for the veterans who served bravely and sacrificed their bodies.”

Under the current program, at least 51 percent of the business must be owned by a disabled veteran and the business must have its principal place located in the state. Bids must be obtained from at least three qualified disabled veteran businesses.

The bill would eliminate the requirement for the business to have its principal place of residency in the state, matching it with other New Jersey contracting laws and with disabled veteran set aside programs in other states.

“Establishing the program was a phenomenal idea, but the state has clearly lagged behind in implementing it. We need to increase the pool of businesses and subcontractors so agencies can meet the 3 percent goal and veterans can actually benefit,” said Peters, who served multiple combat tours overseas as a Navy SEAL.

“As a former Vietnam veteran, I am always supportive of legislation that helps veterans within the State. This bill would allow more veterans to have the opportunity to be awarded state agency contracts,” said Land (D-Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland).

Seven other states have enacted similar legislation to establish service disabled veteran owned business set aside programs. Other programs have less stringent regulations, which help them meet their goals. In 2016, Michigan’s set-aside program awarded nearly $80 million in contracts.

“It is always important to give back to the veteran community because these brave men and women put their lives on the line to ensure our safety. Eliminating the requirement that the principal place of business has to be in the State will open up the opportunity for more veterans to be awarded these contracts,” Milam explained (D-Atlantic, Cape May, and Cumberland).

This bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Bob Andrzejczak. Andrzejczak sponsored legislation to create the program in 2015.