Federal loans to veteran-owned small businesses were up 14% last year, continuing a recent trend in growth for entrepreneurs in the military community, officials from the Small Business Administration announced Monday.

The agency handed out more than $1.1 billion in support to more than 2,800 veteran companies in fiscal 2023, an increase of roughly 40% in funding and 33% in total loan numbers since 2020. From fiscal 2017 to fiscal 2020, officials had seen declines in those figures.

SBA Administrator Isabel Guzman said in a statement that the uptick is both “a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of our American heroes and the SBA’s commitment to simplifying access, cutting red tape, and broadening our outreach network to meet the needs of entrepreneurs.”

The administration estimates that the country has about 1.9 million veteran-owned small businesses which employ about 5.5 million Americans, a small but significant portion of the country’s workforce.

In June, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing the SBA to develop more tools to help would-be veteran entrepreneurs and military spouses looking to start their own businesses. The agency this year has already announced plans to add six new Veteran Business Outreach Centers to their existing network of 22 sites.

Guzman attended the opening ceremony of one new center in Long Beach, California, earlier this month as part of agency outreach efforts around Veterans Day. Another is set to open in Nevada before the end of the month.

SBA officials in recent months have also launched a new SBA Veteran Business Certification program to connect service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses with more federal contracting opportunities, and expanded existing entrepreneurship training programs with a focus on women veterans and disabled veterans.

More information on support services for veteran businesses is available on the SBA website.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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