Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) today commented on the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) release of its final rule for the long-awaited women-owned small business (WOSB) contracting program.  According to the SBA, the program will be functional early next year, and will help increase Federal contracting opportunities for WOSBs.

“The SBA’s announcement of a final rule for the women-owned small business contracting program marks a critical step forward in the decade-long march to implement this crucial initiative,” said Senator Snowe.  “Simply put, women-owned small businesses have yet to receive their fair share of Federal contracting dollars, and as the fastest growing segment of our economy, women-owned small businesses are playing a critical role in helping our nation recover from the current economic morass.  This inequity was the impetus behind the women’s contracting program that Congress authorized in December of 2000, and it’s why I have continued to advocate this essential program finally be fully implemented.  While I applaud the present administration for issuing this final rule, I will continue to monitor its efforts to have the program operational by early next year and to once and for all meet and exceed the Federal government’s goal for women’s contracting opportunities.”

The Federal government has consistently failed to meet its annual women’s contracting goal of five percent.  To help remedy this situation, Congress on December 21, 2000, directed the SBA to establish the women’s contracting program as part of P.L. 106-554, to provide Federal procurement officers with the proper tools to set-aside contracts to women-owned small businesses.  Senator Snowe has repeatedly called on the SBA to issue regulations putting this critical program in place over the last decade, during which time there were a host of bureaucratic actions, including three Congressional reports, numerous Congressional hearings, three proposed rules, and one highly deficient previous final rule.

Additionally, on May 25, 2010, Senators Snowe introduced the Fairness in Women-Owned Small Business Contracting Act of 2010 (S.3399) to provide women entrepreneurs with the tools they need to compete fairly in the Federal contracting arena by allowing for receipt of non-competitive contracts when circumstances permit.  Moreover, the legislation would improve the women’s contracting program by eliminating a restriction on the dollar amount of a contract that women-owned small businesses can compete for.

“In addition to the SBA’s final rule, it remains imperative that we pass legislation I introduced earlier this year to give women entrepreneurs a truly level playing field to compete for Federal contracts,” concluded Senator Snowe.