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Subcommittee Approves Women’s Business Centers Legislation

On April 30, the House Small Business Rural Development, Entrepreneurship and Trade Subcommittee approved, by voice vote, H.R. 1838, the Women’s Business Centers Improvements Act. The committee held a hearing on Small Business Administration entrepreneurship development programs, including the Women’s Business Centers program, on April 2 (see The Source, 4/3/09).

Sponsored by Rep. Mary Fallin (R-OK), H.R. 1838 would authorize $20 million in FY2010 and $22 million in FY2011 for the grants to women’s business centers (WBCs). The bill would create a three-tiered funding formula for WBCs, allocating 40 percent of the available funding to new business centers, the first tier; 20 percent to women’s business centers in the second tier that have completed their initial five-years of funding; and 40 percent to the third-tier business centers that have exhausted their second-tier grants. Each first-tier center would be eligible to receive up to $150,000; each second- and third-tier center could receive up to $100,000.

The bill would establish “benchmarks” based upon socio-economic factors in awarding projects to third-tier WBCs. The benchmarks would include: “the total number of women served by the project; the proportion of low-income women and socio-economic distribution of clients served by the project; the proportion of individuals in the community that are socially or economically disadvantaged (based on median income); the future fundraising and service coordination plans; the diversity of services provided; and the geographic distribution within and across the 10 regions of the Small Business Administration.”

The legislation would establish outcome-based (e.g., job creation or economic activity) and service-based (e.g., services provided to individuals and small businesses) performance measures that “[take] into account the demographic differences of populations served by WBCs and would require each WBC to submit an annual plan for the following year that includes the WBC’s “funding sources and amounts, strategies for increasing outreach to women-owned businesses, strategies for increasing job growth in the community, and other content as determined by the administrator.”

The measure also would authorize $1 million for the National Women’s Business Council.

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