WASHINGTON – Today Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) succeeded in forcing the Bush Administration to implement new legislation that provides permanent funding to Women’s Business Centers within the next 120 days. This ensures that centers are able to receive grant funding as soon as Congress appropriates the funds. The hearing featured testimony detailing how the Administration’s mismanagement of the Women’s Business Center (WBC) program has led to funding delays and a reduction of services, as well as the need for the Women’s Procurement Program which the Bush Administration has failed to implement over the last seven years.

“The Bush Administration has shown no urgency or commitment to fostering the growth of women-owned businesses,” said Kerry. “It’s a real disservice to women around the country to continue this red tape and delay for Women’s Business Center funding. These centers are a lifeline for small business that create jobs and drive our economy. And seven years of excuses and $6 billion in lost contracts because the Administration has failed to implement the women’s procurement program is enough to leave everyone wondering where their commitment is to women small business owners.”

The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Inspector General’s Office outlined investigation findings detailing the delays and confusing red tape encountered by Women’s Business Centers applying for federal grants. In many cases, grant payments that were supposed to be made in thirty days were delayed for almost a year.

“We found that SBA was consistently late in disbursing grant funds, and that the percentage of late payments in Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 had increased from the previous year,” said Ms. Debra Ritt, Assistant Inspector General for Auditing. “In FY 2006, SBA disbursed over 500 payments to WBCs for both new and sustainability grants, but only 25 percent of these payments were made within the Office of Management and Budget’s goal of 30 days. The remaining 75 percent were disbursed from 30 to 353 days following the receipt of payment requests.”

In May, Congress passed into law a permanent renewal grant program for Women’s Business Centers, allowing established, successful centers to receive federal funding once again. Senators Kerry and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) have been pushing for such a program for years, and since Congress intended for the program to be implemented immediately, they called on the Administration to disburse the grants by January 2008. Today, the SBA agreed to implement the program by January 18, 2008.

Kerry also called on the Administration to implement the Women’s Procurement Program which Congress created in 2000. The Administration testified at a July 2007 hearing that, despite seven years of delay, the program would be implemented by September 30, 2007. When Kerry pressed the Administration on this today, they again refused to commit to implementing the program within a certain time frame.