Kerry Fights for Massachusetts Women's Businesses
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 centerslike the Center for Women and Enterprise in Bostonare able to receive grant funding as soon as Congress appropriates the funds. The hearing also featured testimony from a Massachusetts small business owner Wendi Goldsmith, president and founder of The Bioengineering Group based in Salem.
"The Center for Women and Enterprise in Worcester and Boston has been a lifeline for small businesses in Massachusetts, and I've been fighting for years to make sure that they're not punished for their success by losing federal funding. Yet, the Bush Administration has shown no urgency or commitment to sustaining successful centers like the Center for Women and Enterprise," said Kerry, Chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
"It's a real disservice to women around the country and in Massachusetts to continue this red tape and delay for Women's Business Center funding. 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," Kerry said.
In Massachusetts, women-owned businesses generate over $30 billion in sales and employ more than 177,000 people. However, although women-owned businesses account for 30 percent of privately-owned firms, they still receive less than 3 percent of all federal contracting dollars.
Wendi Goldsmith advocated for more assistance for women business owners to access federal contracts.
"The engineering and construction world is heavily dominated by men," said Ms. Goldsmith. "As a result, I have faced constraints accessing working capital, building a network of mentoring and advisory resources, and overcoming challenges recruiting and retaining male staff. All entrepreneurs bravely face risks, and now would be a good time to clear away some of the special obstacles that interfere with women conducting business in the federal sector." Goldsmith's firm won a huge contract earlier this year with the Army Corps of Engineers to help rebuild the Gulf Coast damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
The Administration's mismanagement of the Women's Business Center (WBC) program has led to funding delays and a reduction of services. An audit by the Small Business Association's Inspector General found that only 25 percent of payments were made on time, and some were delayed for up to a year.
In May, the Democratic Congress passed into law a permanent renewal grant program for Women's Business Centers championed by Kerry, allowing established, successful centers like the Center for Women and Enterprise to continue to receive federal funding. Because Congress intended for the program to be implemented immediately, Senators Kerry and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) 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, the Administration again refused to commit to implementing the program within a certain time frame.