WASHINGTON -- As part of its fiscal year 2005 omnibus spending package, Congress today passed an initiative introduced by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to safeguard the nationwide network of Women's Business Centers funded through the Small Business Administration (SBA).

"Supporting the most effective and experienced Women's Business Centers is one of the best ways to increase opportunities for women in business," said Kerry, Ranking Democrat on the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. "The Women's Business Center network reached over 122,000 clients this year, up from 8,000 in 1999, and continues to exceed its goals. Supporting these centers is important to job creation, to local economies and to women-owned businesses nationwide."

The Kerry initiative included in the omnibus bill increases the amount of funding reserved for sustainability centers, the most experienced women?s business centers, to 48 percent. The increase corrects the SBA's outdated funding formula to account for the greater number of women?s business centers that are in the "sustainability" phase of the program. These "sustainability" centers make up about half of the total centers, but currently receive less than a third of the program's funds.

Introduced by Kerry on March 9, 2004, the SBA Emergency Authorization Extension Act of 2004, S.2186, contained similar language making the 48 percent change.