Lacey City Council redirects funds to help veterans start businesses

The Lacey City Council voted Thursday night to redirect $70,000 in surplus funds to a program that will help veterans start their own businesses.

The Veteran Microenterprise program is administered by the Thurston Economic Development Council. It’s designed to help eligible veterans plan, open and operate small businesses.

The money comes from $837,000 in community development block grant funds the council divided in 2014 among several organizations doing business in Thurston County. Among them: a South Puget Sound Community College program called Camo-to-Credit.

Camo-to-Credit, which received about $70,000, allows those in the military to receive college credit for the skills or training they received while on active or reserve duty. But the college has since learned that it doesn’t need the money to implement the program.

So the council voted to redirect the funds to the microenterprise program.

Under the program, income-eligible veterans will be able to qualify for business start-up grants in the range of $500 to $5,000. Of the $70,000 total, $26,000 has been identified for the start-up grants.

But Mayor Andy Ryder, a business owner himself, questioned the size of the start-up grants, saying they may not be enough for a fledgling business. Instead, he and the council voted to allow the EDC to award the full $26,000 amount if “one business is really great,” Ryder said.

The income eligibility ranges from an annual income of $40,050 for a one-person household to $75,550 for an eight-person household, according to city of Lacey data.

The program is expected to serve 20-30 veterans through August of next year.

This isn’t the first time the council has stepped up to help veterans in this community with a significant military population.

In the fall of 2014, the city helped open and fund a Veterans Services office to provide counseling services to veterans, active-duty members and their families. The office is part of South Puget Sound Community College’s new Lacey campus.