This month, the House voted to pass seven of nine small business bills under suspension of the rules— a procedure used to quickly pass non-controversial bills. The seven bills that passed:
Small Business Development Center Cyber Training Act (H.R. 3170): The Small Business Administration would offer cybersecurity and related planning assistance. The bill would require the SBA to train Small Business Development Center employees in counseling small businesses on cybersecurity questions.
Change Order Transparency for Federal Contractors Act (H.R. 4754): Small business contractors and subcontractors seeking bids for federal construction projects would receive improved information from agencies including performance data and policies on change orders.
Women’s Business Centers Improvements Act (H.R. 1680): The Office of Women’s Business Ownership’s responsibilities would be modified and it would be authorized to make larger grants to women’s business centers.
Small Business Development Centers Improvement Act (H.R. 1702): The SBA’s Small Business Development Center grant program would be modified and given new reporting requirements.
Spurring Business in Communities Act (H.R. 4111): The creation of new Small Business Investment Companies in underserved states would be promoted under this bill.
Main Street Employee Ownership Act (H.R. 5236): Employee cooperatives would become eligible for loans backed by the Small Business Administration. The bill would also allow loans to be made to a small business to facilitate employees’ purchase of the firm. The measure also would require additional agency outreach to promote employee purchase of companies.
Small Business 7(a) Lending Oversight Reform Act (H.R. 4743): The Small Business Administration’s Office of Credit Risk Management would be codified and given new oversight responsibilities for the 7(a) program.
The two bills that did not pass were Small Business Advanced Cybersecurity Enhancements Act (H.R. 4668), which would create a central small business cybersecurity assistance unit and small business cybersecurity assistance units in each small business development center, and the SCORE for Small Business Act (H.R. 1700), reauthorizing the SCORE program.
Early this month, the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship unanimously approved the Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2015, which reauthorizes the Women’s Business Center (WBC) program. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair David Vitter (R-LA) and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sponsored this landmark legislation and the bill passed on a bipartisan, unanimous vote – a rare occurrence in Congress as of late.
Women entrepreneurs receive business training and counseling from more than 100 Women Business Centers (WBCs) throughout the country. Because of this bill, the WBC program will now be authorized $21.75M through FY2020, adding more Centers and providing additional support to existing Centers. WBCs can now receive grants up to $250,000, nearly double the previous maximum of $150,000. Funds above the $250,000 level will be made available to Centers that meet goals and wish to establish new projects. These updated funding levels will encourage growth in established Centers and allow WBCs to provide additional support to women entrepreneurs. The Act also requires important updates to the Women Business Center program.
Women’s Business Centers provide an invaluable resource for women entrepreneurs. Ten million women-owned businesses contribute to the nation’s economy by generating $1.6 trillion in revenue and employing nearly 9 million Americans. WBCs are an important partner for these 10 million women-owned businesses and this legislation will enhance their capabilities and build on their successes.