State Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, Darien, recently testified before the General Assembly's Commerce Committee on the subject of unemployment among military veterans, and how Senate Bill 1, now before the committee, would help these veterans find good paying jobs.

"As we draw down our troops from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, more young veterans are going to need good jobs," Leone said. "Yet too many veterans are already unemployed. Senate Bill 1 will expand job opportunities for this influx of new veterans, and address long term unemployment to make sure everyone is treated in a fair and equitable manner."

Last December, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nationwide more than 30 percent of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 were unemployed.

Over the next six months, more than 6,000 combat veterans are due to return back from Iraq to their homes in Connecticut.

Senate Bill 1, an act Concerning Connecticut Jobs and the Economy, will benefit unemployed veterans through an expansion of the STEP-Up program, which was first created in the bipartisan Jobs Bill passed last October.

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The STEP-Up for Veterans initiative will make all Connecticut-based business that hire an unemployed combat veteran eligible for grants that will cover six months of the veteran's salary and training costs, up to a limit of $12,000 per soldier.

Eligible veterans must reside in Connecticut and have returned from a minimum of 90 days of combat service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"Helping veterans to find jobs now will save the state money over the long run," Leone said. "A veteran with a good job can pay their own bills, and need not rely on the state for housing and other living expenses. This legislation is a step in the right direction to address the needs of Connecticut veterans, employers, and the needs of the state."