WASHINGTON -- Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass), top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, announced today that after a five-year push the Small Business Administration has agreed to take the necessary steps to implement a program to increase federal contracting opportunities for women-owned businesses.

“This should have been done years ago,” Kerry said. “But I am pleased that after five years of constant pressure, the Bush administration has finally decided to follow the law and implement the long overdue women’s contracting program. I will continue to hold the Administration accountable every step of the way and ensure there are no further delays.”

The SBA has announced it will begin the implementation process for the women’s contracting program that was passed by Congress and signed into law five years ago. Until this reversal, the SBA had been resisting Kerry’s numerous attempts to put the program into effect.

Just two days ago, Kerry sent a letter to Administrator Barreto calling for the immediate implementation of the women’s contracting program, pointing to a 2001 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that cited that one of the barriers to women seeking to do business with the federal government was “the absence of a specific program targeted to women-owned businesses.”

In the letter sent Tuesday, Kerry also criticized the administration for its delay in implementing the five-year-old women’s contracting program and for its inability to meet the 5 percent women-owned small business contracting goal.

“Any further delay in implementing the legislation, which is already well overdue, will continue to prevent the nation’s women-owned businesses from receiving their fair share of federal contracts,” Kerry wrote.

The Center for Women’s Business Research estimates that as of 2004, there are an estimated 6.7 million privately-held, majority (51 percent or more) women-owned firms. They account for 30 percent of all privately-held firms in the country, generate $1.19 trillion in sales, and employ 9.8 million people nationwide. Between 1997 and 2004, the growth in the number of these majority women-owned firms was nearly two and a half times the rate for all U.S. privately-held firms (23 percent vs. 9 percent). For more information visit: http://www.nfwbo.org.

To read Kerry’s letter, please click here.