GREENPORT — U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, visited Columbia County on Friday to hear from business owners about how their needs could translate into policy in Congress, and help veterans gain valuable resources to assist in their job search after serving their country.
Delgado, who is a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure, Agriculture and Small Business committees, told business owners gathered at The Falls, 158 Union Turnpike, Friday afternoon, that you could not find three better committees that underscore the needs of the 19th Congressional District.
Representatives of Ginsberg’s Foods, which supplies food to hospitals and schools, talked to Delgado about the Safe Drive Act. Columbia County, like many areas across the country, is facing a shortage of tractor-trailer drivers.
“There is not enough drivers here in Columbia County,” Ginsberg’s Foods CEO Suzanne Rajczi said. She added that lowering the age for drivers would also help support many younger drivers support themselves through college.
About 86 percent of Americans support the bill that would change federal highway law to allow younger drivers to transport commerce between states, according to the International Food Service Distributors. Although 18-year-olds can obtain a commercial driver’s license, they cannot drive across state lines until they are 21, under federal guidelines.
Under the proposed changes, drivers must complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of training time in the cab with an experienced driver.
“It makes a lot of sense,” Delgado said.
Delgado told business owners he is working on co-sponsoring 80 bills, half of which have received bipartisan support.
Among his initiatives, Delgado told businesses, are tax credits for small businesses to hire veterans and their spouses, incentives to businesses that buy from local farms and a Medicare option for employees.Veterans Fair
From housing to employment opportunities, recreation to job training, there is a wealth of resources available to those who have sacrificed to protect their country and all it stands for.
But many are not aware of all the resources out there to help the nation’s veterans, so Delgado on Friday hosted the 19th Congressional District Veterans Resource Fair to connect veterans with organizations that can assist them. The fair was held at Columbia-Greene Community College.
“We must never forget the sacrifices of our service members, that they made on a very profound level for this country to keep our democracy and our freedoms alive,” Delgado told the crowd. “We must never forget the hardships the families have to endure, losing loved ones overseas. We must honor these sacrifices to ensure the freedoms for all Americans and citizens of this world. Never forgetting these sacrifices means taking care of our nation’s veterans.”
Delgado said he introduced bipartisan legislation Thursday designed to address high unemployment rates among military spouses. The Military Spouse Hiring Act provides incentives for employers to hire spouses of members of the armed forces. He noted he has worked on other bills aimed at assisting veterans.
The Veterans Resource Fair drew representatives from a range of organizations that work with veterans, providing everything from job opportunities and training to recreational activities like adaptive sports that encourage disabled veterans to take part in skiing, cycling and hiking.
“We offer sporting activities to disabled veterans,” said Caroline Lynch of the Adaptive Sports Foundation. “So we do hiking, mountain biking, road cycling, backpacking, golf, and we also do a women’s-only event. It is to get them out of their homes, to hang out with other veterans who may be going through a similar situation. Our big goal is to get them to find some activity that helps them in their recovery.”
The group Heroic Food seeks to help veterans while at the same time address a national shortage of small farms, as the average age of farmers continues to rise. The organization does this by hosting entrepreneur programs revolving around farming, and providing a one-year immersion program where veterans learn about farming on a hands-on level.
“We provide farmer training for veterans,” said Jasmin Vazquez from Heroic Food. “Right now America is fighting a number of challenges, one of which is in the rural and agricultural community — the farmers are aging out, so America is running out of farms. It is disastrous. On the other hand, we have veterans who are facing transition issues, so if we can get veterans on farms, it’s a great bonding experience — they bond with the soil and they bond with other veterans.”
Adam Schnopp from Soldier On said his organization aids homeless veterans in finding housing and bringing structure to their lives. He said the Veterans Resource Fair provides valuable information to veterans in educating them about services and programs that can help them.
“I hope veterans learn about everything that is available to them,” Schnopp said, adding that they will then spread the information by word of mouth through the veterans’ community.