WASHINGTON -- Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) yesterday introduced and passed legislation that would authorize the Small Business Administration to continue funding eleven women’s business centers that are scheduled to close at the end of the fiscal year.

“This bill will ensure that our most effective women’s business centers continue to receive federal matching funds,” said Kerry, top Democrat on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. “Instead of eliminating resources and opportunities for women in business, we should be increasing them. This funding is not only important to the centers themselves, but also to their local community and the thousands of women-owned businesses who depend on them.”

The eleven centers, known as sustainability centers, were the first to receive grants under the Women’s Business Center Sustainability pilot program authored by Kerry in 1999 (PL 106-165). However, due to a technical provision in the law, these centers would be ineligible for additional funding after the end of this fiscal year. The Snowe-Kerry legislation (S.1517) would allow these eleven centers to continue assisting women-owned businesses with their access to capital, contracting, and business management needs by extending their sustainability grants for one year.

“This is only a temporary fix, but I will continue to fight to ensure this proven and effective program is made permanent, putting the Women’s Business Center program on sound footing for the future.” Kerry added.

The eleven centers are in: Oakland, Calif.; Ukiah, Calif.; Denver, Colo.; Boston, Mass.; Augusta, Maine; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Fosston, Minnesota; Las Cruces, N.M.; Medford, Oregon; Philadelphia, Penn.; and Milwaukee, Wisc. As a whole, the women’s business center network reached over 122,000 clients last year, up from 8,000 in 1999.

Sen. Snowe is Chair of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. To become law, the legislation must now be taken up and passed in the House of Representatives and signed by the President.