Kelli Harmon appointed to American Legion National Small Business Task Force

Published 10:46 am Thursday, June 16, 2022

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The Outer Banks veteran community has gained a local voice on a national advisory group.

Earlier this year, Kelli R. Harmon was appointed to a seat on the American Legion National Small Business Task Force in Washington, D.C.

“I’m really excited about this appointment,” said Harmon. “This task force is who develops the American Legion official stance on legislation that impacts small businesses. And as we draw down from the longest war in the history of our nation I see a lot of veterans starting businesses or seeking employment through small businesses.”

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Chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization, the American Legion is the nation’s largest veterans service organization with nearly 2 million members in communities throughout the United States.

“When you see something coming out that says the American Legion supports this legislation,” Harmon explained, “it’s the Small Business Task Force that has determined that this legislation is a move in the right direction for veterans.”

A veteran herself, Harmon served in the military 2005 to 2012 with two tours overseas including one in Korea and one with the Fourth Infantry Division in Afghanistan. A Bronze Star Medal recipient, she was also a hand-to-hand combat instructor.

In 2019, due to her distinguished service to our nation and for the many positive impacts she has made in the Dare County community, Harmon was recognized as an Outstanding Combat Female Veteran of North Carolina by Combat Female Veterans Families United and presented with a Certificate of Appreciation by Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodard.

Harmon said she welcomes a chance to be a voice at the national level for the veteran community.

“We’re working on legislation that supports boosting the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for all hiring groups for the first two years of employment,” Harmon explained. “The current WOTC program provides a 40 percent tax credit for the first $6,000 of wages and has not been adjusted since the program was created 25 years ago. The recommended change is for 50 percent of the first $10,000 of wages through December 31, 2023.”

The change is seen as an incentive for private-sector employers to hire from among groups that consistently face difficulty in finding stable employment providing a benefit to both small businesses and veterans seeking employment.

Studies have shown that, due to a variety of factors, after concluding their time in the service, some veterans experience challenges when transitioning into the private sector workforce. The result is often unemployment or underemployment. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2020 there were an estimated 581,000 unemployed veterans in the U.S.

Harmon said the proposed changes would also expand the program to not only include veterans, but also spouses.

It’s not the only attempt to help spouses.

Another legislative act supported is a military spouses retirement security act that expands retirement savings opportunities for spouses of active duty military.

“That is so vitally important,” Harmon continued. “Because when the military moves you every two or three years, a spouse may not stay with an employer long enough to qualify to participate in a 401K. And if you do qualify you don’t always qualify to take the vested match that is part of a retirement program with you. This legislation allows businesses to opt in only for military spouses to take advantage of that without having to open it up to everyone.”

Originally from Ohio, Harmon graduated magna cum laude from NC State and as a financial advisor is well versed in retirement savings opportunities.

While her financial background gives Harmon a solid base from which to advocate for small businesses, she sees a much larger picture.

“I’m excited because it not only gives me a chance to advocate for small businesses,” she declared, “but also to be able to talk with representatives of other national task forces like the Employment Opportunity and the Education committees. So it just expands the network and resources available for local veterans.”

The current commander of American Legion Post 26 in Kill Devil Hills, Harmon said she sees no problem adding a national task force to her schedule.

Although it is a busy schedule.

When not working as financial advisor with Edward Jones in Nags Head, Harmon serves as a member of the Dare County Arts Council, Dare County Community Crime Line Board of Directors, Dare County Parks and Recreation Advisory Council, Dare County Veterans Advisory Council and veteran representative on the board of directors for Interfaith Community Outreach in Kill Devil Hills. She is also past president of the Virginia Dare Business and Professional Women’s Club, served as a Veterans of Foreign Wars post commander and retains a lifetime VFW membership. She was also voted the winner of the financial advisor category in the Coastland Gold 2021 People’s Choice Awards.

In almost every instance, she was able to expand the available opportunities and services for veterans.

“I think it’s extremely important to dedicate time to serving our community and I’ve always sought ways to use my interests to make a difference,” she said. “The Outer Banks is dedicated to helping veterans and their families and we are extremely blessed to live here because of the volunteerism that exists.”