Monday, August 20, 2007

Sens. Kerry, Snowe Press for Fulfillment of Women’s Business Center Renewal Grants

Today, Senators John Kerry [D-Mass.] and Olympia J. Snowe [R-Maine, pictured], Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, pressed the Small Business Administration [SBA] to comply with a law to make renewal grants available to established Women’s Business Centers around the country. Kerry and Snowe secured a provision in the emergency appropriations bill signed by President Bush, in May, to ensure that a steady stream of matching funds continues to be available to the most experienced centers.

“Unless the Administration acts quickly to get funding to these Women’s Business Centers, some of them may be forced to cut key services or possibly shut down entirely,” said Kerry. “This renewal grant program will ensure our successful centers, like the Center for Women and Enterprise in Boston, remain strong so they can focus on providing women entrepreneurs with the tools they need to succeed when starting or expanding a business.”

Kerry created the Women's Business Center Sustainability Pilot Program in 1999. Since then, Congress has worked in a bipartisan way to ensure that centers with a proven track record of success continue to receive matching funding from the SBA. The renewal grant program builds on the pilot program.

“The purpose of these ongoing grants is to assure that women business owners, as the fastest growing segment of the U.S. business community, receive the technical assistance they need to expand their businesses and enter new markets without interruption,” explained Snowe. “The SBA needs to act quickly, so that successful centers throughout New England and the United States are not forced to close their doors because they lack the funding to continue providing women with the business counseling and technical assistance.”

Congress intended for the renewal grants program to be implemented immediately, to ensure centers would receive funding by October 1, 2007. Because that did not happen, the affected centers would wait another year for funding. So, in a letter to the SBA, Kerry and Snowe urged the agency to temporarily tailor its grant-making process, so that Women’s Business Centers could receive these critical grants by January 1, 2008. These centers help level the playing field for women entrepreneurs by providing technical and educational assistance.

Women-owned small businesses contribute nearly $2 trillion to our economy each year. In 2006, there were 10.4 million women-owned firms in the United States employing 12.8 million people, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research.

Following, is the text of the letter from Senator Kerry and Senator Snowe to the SBA:

August 17, 2007

The Honorable Steven Preston
U.S. Small Business Administration
409 Third Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20416

Dear Administrator Preston:

On May 25, 2007, President Bush signed into law the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act of 2007, which contained a provision creating a renewal grant program for the Small Business Administration’s [SBA] Women’s Business Center program. This provision enabled all Women’s Business Centers, including those which have graduated or are graduating in FY 2007 from the sustainability program, to apply for 3-year renewal grants. The legislation made the renewal grant program effective immediately, and Congress intended for new renewable grants to be disbursed to those eligible graduated and graduating centers by October 1, 2007.

The fact that these funds will not be disbursed to graduated or graduating centers by October 1, 2007, will hurt women business owners who need technical assistance. Therefore, to comply with the law and to mitigate any adverse consequences for women business owners seeking assistance, the SBA must temporarily tailor and abbreviate its up-coming grant making process so that the new renewable grants are disbursed to eligible centers by January 1, 2008. [In order to keep the grant cycle consistent, the first renewable grants should be scheduled to end on the last day of FY 2010.]

Women’s Business Centers are instrumental in supporting the growth and success of women-owned businesses, and it is very important that the Agency implement the renewal grant program as soon as possible. There are nearly 10.4 million women owned firms throughout the nation, employing more than 12.8 million people, and generating $1.9 trillion in sales.

Despite their contribution to the economy and double-digit increases in women business ownership, women are still less likely than men to own businesses, and, if they do own businesses, their average size of business is smaller. Women’s Business Centers specifically target low-income women, and between 45 and 60 percent of economically disadvantaged individuals entering the program are no longer in poverty a year or two later.

In the past, Women’s Business Centers could only receive funding from the federal government for up to 10 years. This left established centers struggling for funds, from Massachusetts and Maine, to New Hampshire and New Mexico. Women’s Business Centers target low-income women and are therefore unable to charge more than nominal fees for their services. Consequently, ongoing federal funding is essential in order for these centers to continue their work with women entrepreneurs.

We urge the SBA to support the established centers and to implement the program in a way that would allow them to immediately apply for grants, so they can begin receiving grants as of January 1, 2008. Please let us know how the SBA plans to implement these changes, and how the Committee can be helpful to you and your staff in meeting these timelines.


John F. Kerry
Olympia J. Snowe

Source: U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

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1 comment:

Cheryl's Office said...

It is great to see more grants and growth in resources supporting women-owned businesses. I recently set up a new office for my small business and I got great financing terms on the entire package. Banks would not talk to me two years ago. When I upgraded our computers I decided to buy new office furniture from a woman-owned furniture group. I now have several grant applications in as a way to expand my business.