Kerry, Snowe Move to Save Women’s Business Centers from the Chopping Block

Yesterday, Senators John Kerry and Olympia Snowe introduced and passed legislation that authorizes the S.B.A. to continue funding eleven women’s business centers that are scheduled to be closed at the end of the year.

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.

The eleven centers (scheduled to be closed) 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.

The Women’s Business Centers are vital to helping women in business across the country. They provide access to advice on small business including business and marketing plans, and access to loans through the S.B.A.

“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.”

“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.

In order for the bill to become law, the legislation must now be taken up and passed in the House of Representatives and signed by the President.

As a small business owner, I understand fully the hurdles that women in business face daily. Now entering my 10th year in business, I am grateful for assistance received last year through my local Women’s Business Center. John Kerry has consistantly fought to provide assistance to women in business and recognizes that women in business are amongst the fatest growing sector of small business.

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