WIPP Works in Washington: Primary Thoughts on the 2016 Election

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By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Government Relations

Does anyone else think the 2016 Presidential election has been going for ages?  It sure seems like that to me, but admittedly, it has been one of the most entertaining primaries in recent history.  The 24-hour news cycle has kept us up to the minute with every speech, gaff, or barb traded by the candidates. We’ve seen our fair share of debates, roundtables and town halls while watching almost daily polls track the candidates as their support rises and falls. Luckily, today is when the rubber meets the road – at least in Iowa – where Iowans will caucus for their primary candidates. As the 2016 Presidential election ramps up, so too will WIPP’s advocacy efforts. Why? Because we are not cynical about democracy and the process necessary to achieve it. We believe engagement is the mechanism by which to change the trajectory of our country’s future.

WIPP has made addressing the needs of women entrepreneurs a top priority for elected officials and our advocacy has resulted in successes for women business owners. Just look to 2015 for proof that women business owners have a seat at the table. We worked for implementation of sole source authority for the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Procurement Program– a tremendous step forward for women-owned businesses seeking to win federal contracts.  The Senate Small Business Committee passed the first reauthorization for the Women’s Business Center (WBC) program in nearly a decade, which provides important business support to women entrepreneurs. These are just two of the many policy victories for women entrepreneurs last year.

To ensure that we keep up that momentum and women entrepreneurs remain a top priority for our elected officials, WIPP has launched WE Decide 2016. This collaboration with Personal BlackBox (PBB) will engage women entrepreneurs seeking to affect the issues candidates discuss throughout the 2016 Election.  Ten million woman business owners, if active, are in a position to influence the direction of economic policy positions.  According to the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), women-owned businesses are an economic force, contributing nearly $1.6 trillion to the annually to the US economy. The WE Decide 2016 platform seeks to engage all women business owners and associations whose members are women entrepreneurs, not just WIPP members. When women come together to share their views about the future of this country, they don’t need to be caucusing in Iowa or attending town halls in New Hampshire.  The platform will be polling women business owners on economic issues, such as access to capital, access to federal markets, tax policy and providing healthcare to employees, to mention a few topics that affect us daily.

As the primary results come in and we move on to the New Hampshire primary next week and the South Carolina primary on February 20, know that through WE Decide 2016, we have a unique opportunity to engage the voices of ten million women business owners. We certainly don’t need to agree on every issue, but I, for one, think women business owners may not necessarily possess the same views on issues that the national polls indicate.  So, lean in and let’s see the results of our engagement.  I can’t wait to see the impact all of us together can have in November.

 

 

More Than Cheer In Congressional Stocking

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Women business owners enter the holiday season with a gift from Congress — more money for important women’s entrepreneurship programs.

Just when it seemed like Members of Congress would have to delay their Holiday break, the House and Senate passed two key bills to conclude the legislative year. After funding the government with stopgap measures for over two months, Congress agreed on a spending bill thru September 2016. Accompanying the yearlong spending bill is a bipartisan agreement to extend expiring tax rules for businesses and families. Both bills give women-owned businesses reason to celebrate during the Holiday season.

The $1.1 trillion funding bill sets spending levels for all government programs through September 30, 2016. Congress increased funding for many of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) lending and entrepreneurial development programs. The chart below highlights WIPP’s priorities and the programs import to women entrepreneurs:

  FY2016 WIPP’s Request FY2015
Women’s Business Centers $17 million $16 million $15 million
National Women’s Business Council $1.5 million $1 million $1 million
Microloan Program Lending $35 million $35 million $25 million
Microloan Program Technical Assistance $25 million $25 million $22.3 million
PRIME Program $5 million $5 million $5 million
Office of Advocacy $9.1 million $9.1 million $8.45 million

WIPP advocated throughout 2015 on behalf of women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs and WIPP’s efforts culminated in full and increased funding levels for vital programs. Congress gave a huge boost to the microloan program- a primary capital access vehicle for women-owned businesses – by expanding lending authority by 40% to $35 million. Women’s business Centers (WBCs) will receive an increase of $2 million, which will enable the WBC program to provide additional grants for entrepreneurial development training for women entrepreneurs. Not only did WIPP advocate for increased funding for the WBC program, WIPP supported The Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2015. This bill would increase the WBC program’s authorization to $21.75 million, increase awards to Centers from $150,000 to $250,000, and provide modernizations to the program’s granting and approval process.

Congress’ tax “extenders” bill, an annual extension of certain tax credits and deductions, provides certainty for businesses and valuable incentives for research and investment. The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act will expand and make permanent small business expensing rules and the Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit. Lawmakers permanently extended the small business expensing limitation of $500,000 that was in effect from 2010 to 2014.  Had this rule not been extended, businesses would only have been allowed to deduct a maximum of $200,000 for machinery and equipment investments.

The bill also makes permanent the R&D credit, making it easier for start-ups and small businesses to receive tax deductions for innovative projects. According to WIPP’s 2015 Survey of Women Business Owners, tax burdens were the prime concern of women-owned firms. Specifically, women business owners cited uncertainty in tax credits and deductions as an annual concern. This bill helps alleviate some of the uncertainty.

As we wrap up 2015, Congress’s end of the year legislation provides full funding and certainty for programs important to women entrepreneurs.  We are looking forward to a productive and successful 2016.