San Diego

Local Leaders Highlight Relief for Veterans Built Into American Rescue Plan

The American Rescue Plan has offers health care and business relief specific for veterans like Jeff Nicoletta, owner of Bubba's Smokehouse BBQ in La Jolla


Veterans are getting extra help with health care, job training, education benefits, and small business grants Thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and Rep. Mike Levin (D-49) held a press conference Wednesday to highlight the relief avenues extended to veterans.

One of the bigger packages included in the deal spared veterans co-pays for medical treatment related to COVID-19 retroactive to April of last year.

The owner of a popular BBQ restaurant in La Jolla was one of the first to apply and receive a significant award from the program.

Navy veteran Jeff Nicoletta and his wife own and operate Bubba's Smokehouse BBQ. The menu isn't too fancy, just good comfort food served up by a guy that will make you feel like he's your best friend the minute you meet. 

"In La Jolla you can go for locals or tourists. I go for locals and hopefully the tourists follow,” Nicoletta said.

Nicoletta and his wife have owned the BBQ joint for 12 years. The hardest of those was 2020.

"I basically did whatever I had to do. If you pulled up and wanted me to bring it to your car, I'd bring it to your car. If you wanted me to bring it outside I'd bring it outside," Nicoletta said.

Even though sales were down significantly, the Nicolettas had an established takeout business before the pandemic. That and PPP loans kept the doors open.

“These government programs saved my business. I am hoping it can save many more but for sure mine," Nicoletta said.

His accent is unmistakably Brooklyn, which is where he enlisted in the Navy. Nicoletta spent much of his five-year career on USS Coronado.

Under the American Rescue Plan Act Nicolletta was awarded over $200,000. The truth is, the money is already spent on a lot of pandemic I-Owe-Yous.

"A lot of things let you slide, but once you get the money, everybody is betting on that money. Now you have the piper to pay," he said. "It is life-changing money if you use it correctly. It basically bailed me out of coronavirus.”

Nicoletta moves forward with a renewed sense of faith in his fellow man. A proud veteran and pround member of the community.

"All veterans served the people. It is awesome for the people to return the favor," Nicoletta said.

Mayor Gloria said the American Rescue Plan saved his budget, too, but said it was important for him to highlight the ways it's helped our nation's heroes.

"Few cities know the importance of our veteran community the way an Diego does," Gloria said. "Service is at the very fabric of what we are as a city."

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