Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) has introduced the Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2014. The bill nearly doubles funding for Women’s Business Centers, increases federal contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses, and increases microlending.
From the bill summary:
Women’s Small Business Counseling:Currently, there are 107 local non-profit organizations that host the Women’s Business Centers located throughout most of the U.S., which help more than 150,000 clients annually and is overseen by the SBA Office of Women Ownership. This legislation would reauthorize the Women’s Business Center program through fiscal year 2019 and nearly doubles funding authorization from $14.5 million a year to $26.75 million a year, while establishing clear rules and metrics to evaluate the success of each center.
Women’s Small Business Contracting:This legislation would authorize sole source awards to women-owned small businesses, creating parity for the Women-Owned Small Business program in terms of federal contracting opportunities. Under current law, women-owned small businesses are not eligible for sole-source contracts from the federal government. The federal government has a goal of awarding 5% of federal contracts to women-owned small businesses. This goal has never been reached and this bill will help the federal government meet that target. Had the goal been achieved, is it estimated women-owned companies would receive another $4 billion in federal contracts each year.
Access to Capital: The legislation would allow lenders in the SBA Microloan to increase overall lending capacity from $5 million to $7 million and improve the program to better meet the needs of borrowers through offering more flexible loan terms, improved technical assistance, and reallocation of resources to high performing lenders. The SBA Microloan program allows intermediaries to issue loans up to $50,000. Current law limits micro lenders from spending more than 25% of the technical assistance on a potential borrower. This provision was originally included in the pilot program legislation to make sure intermediaries did not use all of their technical assistance funds to assist businesses that did not have the potential to become borrowers. Your legislation eliminates this requirement to better assist prospective borrowers and provides lenders with more flexibility.