WASHINGTON -- The Senate today passed S.2267, the Women’s Sustainability Recovery Act. Originally introduced by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as part of S.2186, the legislation safeguards Women’s Business Centers funded through the SBA in 39 states.

“Women-owned firms are constantly breaking down the barriers of the past and proving that the business world is no longer a good ol’ boy network,” said Kerry, Ranking Member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. “This legislation prevents the Administration from continuing to short-change women entrepreneurs by short-changing the business centers that have been a valuable tool in helping them succeed.”

The bill, which is identical to the provision introduced by Kerry on March 9, 2004, corrects the SBA’s outdated funding formula to protect 53 of most experienced Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) that are at risk of losing funding. These WBCs have graduated from the initial stage of the program and have entered the second, or “sustainability” phase. These “sustainability” centers make up over half the total centers, but currently receive less than a third of the program’s funds.

“Last year alone, the Women’s Business Center network helped 106,000 women in business,” Kerry said. “Today, with women-owned firms opening at one-and-a-half times the rate of all privately held companies, the demand and need for women’s business centers is even greater. Funding is not only important to the centers themselves, but to the women’s business community at-large and to the millions of workers employed by women-owned businesses around the country.”

To account for the growing number of WBCs entering the second phase of the program, the bill increases the percentage of funding reserved for sustainability grants to 48 percent. Without this adjustment, all sustainability grants to WBCs could be cut in half -- or worse 23 centers could lose funding completely -- and thousands of women in business would lose this valuable resource. The legislation requires the SBA to fully fund all qualified centers and still allows new centers to be opened in unserved communities.

States and territories with fiscal year 2004 sustainability centers (53 total): Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California (3), Colorado (2), Connecticut (2), D.C., Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan (2), Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico (4), North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas (2), Utah, Virgin Islands, Washington, Wisconsin (3), Wyoming.