WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME) expressed her concern that the Small Business Administration (SBA) has failed to deliver on a host of promises, particularly with regard to women-owned small businesses. As Ranking Member of the Committee, Senator Snowe also called on the SBA to improve its lender oversight responsibilities, as well as to develop a “Small Business Energy Clearinghouse” as required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
“Our purpose at this hearing was to press the SBA for answers and action on a variety of promises made to the Small Business Committee and this Congress,” said Senator Snowe. “Regrettably, the SBA has notdelivered on several commitments, especially with regard to women-owned businesses, and at a time when our economy is fragile and job creation and economic growth could not be more front and center on the American agenda. I sincerely hope that this hearing will be a turning point for resolving several issues at the SBA that are unnecessarily hindering our nation’s small businesses at the worst conceivable time.”        
Expressing her alarm about the ineffectiveness of the SBA’s long-delayed, recently proposed rule for the Women’s Contracting Set-Aside Program, Senator Snowe urged the SBA to promulgate a final rule that provides increased contracting opportunities for women business-owners. The proposed rule identified only four industries, out of 140, in which women-owned small businesses are under-represented and eligible for set-asides. It is clear that the proposed rule, which was seven yearsin the making, is too limited to expand the presence of women-owned businesses in federal contracting. 
“The SBA had an opportunity to hit a home run in implementing a women’s contracting program, but I am deeply concerned that the Agency’s proposed rule to implement this initiative falls far short of what is required,” said Senator Snowe. “According to the Central Contractor Registration, only an estimated 1,238 business contractors across the entire nation, and just two in my home state of Maine, would potentially be benefited by the proposed rule. I will continue to look at all options to ensure that a final rule will truly help women receive their fair share of federal contracting opportunities.”
Additionally, given an economy suffering from a painful downturn in the housing market and a credit crunch, Senator Snowe urged the SBA to vastly improve its lender oversight responsibilities to ensure that the Agency’s loan programs meet the capital needs of the nation’s small businesses. The SBA’s Inspector General has over the last two years released 15 reports detailing serious problems with the agency’s oversight activities. To address these lender oversight deficiencies, Senator Snowe, with Senator Kerry, has introduced the Small Business Lending Oversight and Program Performance Improvements Act of 2007 (S. 2288), which would codify the SBA’s standards for portfolio quality and enhance the transparency of measurements the SBA uses to evaluate lenders.    
“Make no mistake, in 2008, this Committee’s number one priority is to help revitalize an economy that has been battered by a credit crunch, a weakened housing market, and exorbitant energy prices,” said Senator Snowe. “Because small businesses must have increased access to capital through SBA loan programs in order to grow and create jobs, it is imperativefor the Agency to improve its lender oversight responsibilities.   I, along with Chairman Kerry have several key pieces of lending legislation to do just that, and I hope we can make them law in short order.”
Finally, Senator Snowe urged SBA Administrator Steven Preston to develop a “Small Business Energy Clearinghouse” to assist small businesses to become more energy efficient. Congress required the SBA, working with the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies, to implement this measure as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Notably, Congress had to approve additional energy legislation in December 2007, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, to compel the SBA to fulfill its legal obligation. 

“Morethan three years and two bills signed into law by President Bush have elapsed since Congress required the SBA to establish a ‘Small Business Energy Clearinghouse,’ and yet this task still has not been accomplished,” said Senator Snowe. “The SBA must at long last assist small businesses to become more energy efficient.”