Washington – Senator John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), the top Democrat on the Small Business Committee, today led efforts to pass a bill that will allow women's business centers to re-compete for five-year matching grants. The Women's Business Centers Sustainability Act unanimously passed the Senate committee today.

"Providing services to economically disadvantaged women opens the doors of opportunity to full business ownership and participation while contributing to the economic well-being of our country," Kerry said. "Women's Business Centers provide critical services that strengthen families and communities, while eliminating the remnants of discrimination which still exist against women in terms of full economic participation."

The Kerry bill would allow women's business centers which have completed the five-year term of their funding to re-compete for another five years of federal funding. However, the standards for receiving another term of funding for these centers would be higher than those for centers that are applying for their initial five-year funding term.

The Women's Business Center Program was started by the Small Business Administration in order to provide five-year grants to private organizations to establish business training centers for women. As recognition that women are of growing importance in today's economy, these centers teach women the basic principles of finance, management, and marketing, as well as specialized topics such as how to get a government contract. The focus of the centers is on socially and economically disadvantaged women.