Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) issued the following statement regarding the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) release of long-awaited regulations for the women's contracting program enacted into law nearly a decade ago on December 21, 2000:

“After three Congressional reports, numerous Congressional hearings, two proposed rules, one highly deficient final rule and nearly a decade of delay, today’s announcement is long overdue,” said Senator Snowe.  “So I thank Administrator Mills for bringing this crucial initiative ever closer to the finish line.  Implementation of a meaningful women’s contracting program will help Federal agencies meet their contracting goals, and will afford women-owned small businesses a critical tool to increase access to Federal contracts that will allow their companies to grow and thrive and do what they do best, which is to create new jobs.  During the comment period that is currently underway, I will be closely scrutinizing the SBA’s latest proposed rule to ensure that it maximizes Federal contracting opportunities to women-owned small businesses.”

Under present law, the Federal government has a 5 percent contracting goal for women-owned small businesses (WOSB).  To help address the underrepresentation of women entrepreneurs in the government marketplace, Congress established the Women’s Procurement Program in late 2000.  Yet the SBA had failed to properly implement the women’s program, leading to the continued failure by agencies to meet their statutory goals.  Notably, in Fiscal Year 2008, WOSBs were only awarded 3.4 percent of Federal contracting dollars. 

Significantly, the proposed rule does not include the requirement contained in a prior version stipulating that each Federal agency certify that it had engaged in discrimination against WOSBs in order for the program to apply to contracting by that agency.  The rule adopts a system that analyzes both the number of women-owned firms and a dollar amount of contracts awarded as measures of underrepresentation.  The new rule will also identify more eligible industries under the program as those in which women-owned small businesses are underrepresented or substantially underrepresented. 

The proposed rule, which can be viewed at www.regulations.gov, will be published in the Federal Register Thursday, with public comments due by May 3, 2010.  The SBA will then review, analyze, and respond to comments before submitting revisions for interagency review and promulgating a final rule.