WASHINGTON -- Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today wrote to the Small Business Administration (SBA) pushing the agency to release a specific timeline for implementing a long-overdue contracting program targeting women-owned businesses. The program was to have begun five years ago.

Today’s letter is a follow-up to a letter Kerry wrote to SBA Administrator Hector Barreto on May 24, 2005, following up on repeated requests for the Administration to implement the Women-Owned Small Business Set-Aside Program. Responding the next day, the SBA announced that it would “begin the necessary steps” towards starting the program. However, since then there has been no indication that the Administration has taken any steps to keep this commitment.

“Five years of waiting is five years too long for the women-owned businesses who are trying to get their fair share of government contracts,” Kerry said. “It is time for the Administration to follow through on its promise to these hard-working women and provide us with specifics for beginning this program.”

Kerry’s letter requests a timeline for proposed regulations and a target date for an industry study as required by law.

The Women-Owned Small Business Set-Aside Program was signed into law by President Clinton in 2000, but the SBA under President Bush has delayed its implementation for almost five years. In addition to this delay, the Bush Administration has failed to meet the 5 percent goal for women’s businesses share of federal contracts throughout their entire tenure in office, costing women-owned businesses approximately $6.5 billion each year.

“Women-owned businesses will continue to lose billions of dollars every year that the Administration does not meet its 5 percent goal as required by law,” Kerry said. “Providing assistance to women-owned businesses, which account for almost half of this nation’s employers, can help expand our economy and restore the many jobs lost since President Bush took office.”

To read Kerry’s letters, please click here.