By DAN HEATH, Press-Republican
---- — PLATTSBURGH — About 25 veterans are employed at Bombardier Transportation among its workforce of over 400.
But there are 1,167 unemployed veterans in the North Country region, including 280 in Clinton County, according to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.
Those numbers are expected to increase as efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to wind down, he said at Bombardier on Friday.
One vet without a job, the senator added, is one too many.
“In this tough economy, these brave people who risk their lives for us are being left in the dust,” he said. “They shouldn’t have to spend months standing in the unemployment line when they come home.”
Schumer and Congressman Bill Owens were at Bombardier to promote efforts to extend a tax-credit for companies that hire military veterans.
Enacted in Nov. 2011, the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warriors Tax Credit is set to expire at the end of this year. It allows businesses that hire veterans to receive a tax credit of up to $9,600, based on the length of time the veteran has been unemployed and if he or she has a service-connected disability.
The tax credit is expected to be included in a package of tax breaks to be considered in the Senate this fall.
The legislation allows for a tax credit of $2,400 for a veteran who has been unemployed for four weeks but less than six months, $5,600 if he or she has been without work for more than six months and $9,600 for those who have been unemployed that long and have a service-related disability.
WOULD HIRE VETS
Schumer said Bombardier officials have told him if the provision is extended, they plan to use it to hire more vets. The company has recently received two large contracts — an order for 410 railcars with options of up to 365 more with Bay Area Rapid Transit in San Francisco that could be worth up to $1.5 billion and a 300-car order from New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority worth $600 million.
Empire State Development has earmarked $2.5 million for a proposed expansion of the Plattsburgh facility. The plan would call for the company to invest up to $25 million, but no timetable has been announced.
FORT DRUM IN DISTRICT
Owens, a co-sponsor of the original bill, said support of veterans is especially important for this district, which is home to Fort Drum near Watertown.
“We look forward to making sure this credit gets extended,” he said.
State Assemblywoman Janet Duprey said Bombardier is a vital part of the regional economy. Its recent successes, she noted, are great for its stability moving forward.
“I was pleased to see the MTA contract come to the North Country,” she said.
‘GET THIS DONE’
John Hetfield, a local veterans employment representative with the U.S. Department of Labor, said the tax credits have made a significant difference in helping veterans find jobs.
“We’ve had a lot of success with it,” he said.
It will be critical that the tax credit doesn’t get attached to other legislators’ special-interest projects, Schumer said. He does want to tie it in with other tax credits that would target middle-class families.
“We have to break through that and get this done,” he said.
Schumer said there is also a plan to allow municipalities and nonprofits to receive tax credits for hiring veterans. Both bills have bi-partisan support, he said.
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