U.S. Senator and Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Maria Cantwell, along with Senators Ben Cardin, Jeanne Shaheen, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tammy Baldwin, and John Walsh introduced Senate Bill 2693: The Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2014. The bill is written to improve access to lending, business training and federal contracting for women-owned businesses.
The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) released the following statement in response:
“This is a big win and a milestone for the National Women’s Business Council, the movement, and the millions of women across the country. The Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2014 will open doors to more money, more contracting opportunities, and more training for women to start, grow, and scale their businesses. The Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2014 creates a pathway to success, and calls for much-needed remedies to the barriers and challenges that are realities for too many women,” said NWBC Executive Director Amanda Brown.
“As shared in the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship’s recent report, women-owned businesses represent a $3 trillion economic force and support 23 million jobs, but women-owned businesses still face significant barriers compared to their male-owned counterparts. This is a sobering reality for countless women entrepreneurs. It is time to close the gender gap for women entrepreneurs. It is time to break through the 21st century glass ceiling.”
“On behalf of the National Women’s Business Council, I am proud to add the Council to the long and growing list of supporters, which include three organizations with representation on the Council: the Association of Women’s Business Centers, the National Association of Women Business Owners, and Women Impacting Public Policy. We applaud Senator Cantwell, Baldwin, Cardin, Gillibrand, Shaheen and Walsh for their leadership, and hope to see even more Senators join as co-sponsors.”
Key components of the legislation include:
- Expanding and improving the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Microloan and Intermediary Lending programs to reach more women borrowers who need up to $50,000, as well as reauthorize the SBA Intermediary Lending program — now a pilot program — to provide more women access to loans between $50,000 and $200,000. The legislation would allow Microloan lenders to increase lending capacity from $5 million to $7 million and improve the program to better meet borrowers’ needs through more flexible terms and expanded technical assistance. Women often face difficulty in getting right-sized loans that fit their needs, according to the report, and this will help fill a gap not met by traditional private lending. The Microloan program targets new and early-stage small businesses as well as borrowers with limited credit history who can’t receive financing from a traditional lending institution.
- Allowing sole-source contracting for federal contracts awarded through the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract program, which would put women-owned businesses on equal footing with other disadvantaged groups in the contracting process. The legislation would change current law, and aims to help the federal government meet its goal of awarding 5 percent of contracts to women-owned businesses – a goal that has never been reached since it was established by legislation 20 years ago. When this goal is not reached, women-owned companies miss out on $4 billion in federal contracting opportunities each year.
- Increasing funding for the Women’s Business Center program to expand and improve counseling and training services to reach more women entrepreneurs, especially in low-income areas. The program, overseen by SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership, issues grants to nonprofits that provide these services. The centers assist 150,000 clients annually, and helped women to access more than $25 million in capital in fiscal year 2013. The centers help address the unique challenges women entrepreneurs face, such as less capital to invest and responsibility for child care or elder care. The legislation would reauthorize the program through 2019 and nearly double the annual funding authorization. It also would establish clear metrics to measure each center’s success.
- Requiring data on women-owned small businesses by establishing a 2015 deadline for an SBA study to identify industries in which women-owned small businesses are under-represented. The original deadline was 2018.
The National Women’s Business Council continues to be a leading voice on economic issues impacting women entrepreneurs. For media inquiries, please contact: Krystal.Glass@nwbc.gov.
National Women’s Business Council