WASHINGTON – Today Senators John Kerry (D-Mass) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), 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 Center.

To read the letter that Chairman Kerry and Ranking Member Snowe sent to Administrator Preston, click here.