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, outlined specific questions about Women’s Business Center funding they expect the Bush Administration to answer at a hearing on Thursday. Kerry and Snowe have called on the Administration to comply with the law and fund established and successful Women’s Business Centers as soon as possible. The Committee is holding a hearing on women’s business issues on Thursday, September 20, 2007, featuring testimony from female entrepreneurs, the Small Business Administration, the agency’s Inspector General, and the Government Accountability Office.

“The law was meant to help these successful centers train and assist women entrepreneurs, not starve them of the resources they need to complete their mission,” said Kerry. “I’m disappointed that the SBA is stalling to implement this important program, and at Thursday’s hearing we will demand answers and accountability. I strongly urge Administrator Preston and the rest of the agency to do what’s in the best interest of Women’s Business Centers and their clients and make these grants available as soon as possible.”

In addition to Women’s Business Center funding, Thursday’s hearing will also focus on the Women’s Procurement Program which was signed into law in 2000. Despite repeated, bipartisan calls, the Bush Administration has failed to implement this program over the last seven years.

“We hope it’s the intention of the SBA to come to this hearing prepared to provide detailed answers on how they plan to implement this crucial new grant program,” Senator Snowe said. “It’s imperative that these centers who are aiding dedicated and successful women entrepreneurs get the funding necessary to their cause.”

Senators Kerry and Snowe sent a letter to the SBA in August to encourage the agency to temporarily tailor its grant-making process so that Women’s Business Centers could receive renewal grants by January 1, 2008. Instead of taking the advice of Congress, the SBA contends that they are not able to do so under present law. In May, Kerry also asked the Inspector General to investigate funding delays to some Women’s Business Centers.

The Women’s Business Center Renewal Grants program was passed as part of the emergency appropriations bill signed by President Bush in May, and builds on the Women's Business Center Sustainability Pilot Program introduced by Senator Kerry 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.

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