TUPELO • Within the last month, two policy initiatives spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly have made progress in Congress.
A resolution Kelly introduced would fund a one-year fellowship in congressional offices for the family members of service members killed in the line of duty.
Also, a bill authored by the north Mississippi Republican is intended to streamline the process for small businesses owned by veterans seeking to work for the federal government.
In late October, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution authored by Kelly that would offer one-year congressional jobs to Gold Star family members.
Under the act, a sibling, spouse or child of a U.S. military member killed in the line of duty would be able to work for a year in a chosen congressional office, whether at a district or Washington, D.C office.
“When our service members make the ultimate sacrifice, there is no award, no amount of money or no program that can ever make their lives whole again,” Kelly said. “But this program gives the families left behind a chance to participate in our great democratic process at the national level.”
There are already fellowship programs for veterans themselves. The Wounded Warrior Program offers veterans a two year fellowship working in the House of Representatives.
The resolution, introduced in February, is named after Sgt. 1st Class Sean Cooley and Specialist Christopher Horton. Cooley was a member of the Mississippi National Guard, served with Kelly and was killed in Iraq in 2005.
Horton was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.
The resolution was agreed to in the House without objection. Since it only concerns the operations of the House, no Senate approval is required to implement the program.
The House Chief Administration Officer will determine how many fellowships will be available and how much the fellows will be paid, based on the interest from congressional offices.
In mid-November, the House also approved a bill authored by Kelly, the VA-SBA Act.
Small businesses owned by veterans are eligible for special consideration when seeking federal contracts. Right now, the Department of Veterans Affairs maintains a list of businesses eligible for these special considerations.
Kelly’s bill would move responsibility for maintaining that list to the Small Business Administration. The SBA would also be required to verify the veteran-owned status of these businesses.
In a statement, Kelly said the bill “reduces red tape and confusion for veteran small business owners who wish to do business with the federal government.”
The bill passed the U.S. House on a voice vote and advanced to the Senate, where it has been referred to the Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Kelly serves on the House Armed Services Committee and is a brigadier general in the Mississippi National Guard. Military and veterans issues have been among his major policy priorities.