WASHINGTON – Senator John F. Kerry, Ranking Member of the Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, today introduced legislation to save the successful Women’s Business Centers by fixing the funding gap that currently exists for those Centers graduating from the first stage of the program and entering the sustainability portion.

The current funding gap for Women’s Business Centers in sustainability exists because the Small Business Administration has chosen to cut funding for existing, proven centers in order to open new, unproven ones. Reflecting bad policy and contrary to Congressional intent, the incorrect interpretation of the existing funding formula by the SBA would make way for new centers at the expense of those that are already established and effective.

“As I have said on more than one occasion, women business owners do not get the recognition they deserve for their contribution to our economy,” said Kerry. “Eighteen million Americans would be without jobs today if it weren’t for these entrepreneurs who had the courage and the vision to strike out on their own. Instead of eliminating the business opportunities for women we have worked so hard to put in place, we must increase their earning power, financial independence and asset accumulation through existing policies that work and new policies that will work even better

In 2002 alone, Women’s Business Centers helped more than 85,000 women with the business counseling and assistance they likely could not have found anywhere else. The sustainability portion applies to those centers that have proven themselves and, due to a Kerry measure signed into law in 1999, rely on funding that that work to sustain the infrastructure of the centers and allow them to continue serving women business owners in the community.

Of the 81 business centers in America, 29 are already in the sustainability stage and six more are slated to graduate soon. The measure proposed by Kerry reserves 36 percent of the appropriated funds, thereby protecting the centers from the Administration’s detrimental cuts.

“These are not just words,” said Kerry. “For these women, it means having a bank account, buying a home, sending their children to college, and providing jobs for millions of Americans.”