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Shaheen Helps Introduce Legislation to Reauthorize & Improve Women’s Business Center Program

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today joined Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) in introducing the Women’s Business Centers Improvement Act of 2022 — legislation to reauthorize and improve the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Women’s Business Center (WBC) Program. 

“Women business owners and entrepreneurs are at the heart of ingenuity and economic development across the Granite State. Ensuring women have access to resources, assistance and mentorship is key to leveling the playing field and empowering women to lead,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m proud to help introduce this bill to support Women’s Business Centers, which help position women at the helm of the small business community.” 

The Women’s Business Center program is a national network of more than 140 centers that offer counseling, training, networking, workshops, technical assistance and mentoring to entrepreneurs. WBCs support entrepreneurs at all stages of the business development process, including assistance with writing a business plan, conducting market research, navigating the federal procurement process and other business management and operations skills. The program played a key role in the SBA’s support of small businesses during the pandemic. WBCs served more than 88,000 clients in 2021, which is a 36 percent increase from the 64,000 clients served in 2019. 

The Women’s Business Centers Improvement Act of 2022 will give the SBA and WBCs the tools necessary to meet the demands of a historic boom in new business formation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans registered 5.4 million new businesses in 2021—the highest total on record and a nearly 2 million increase from 2019 when there were 3.5 million new business applications. 

The Women’s Business Centers Improvement Act of 2022 will increase federal support to WBCs by doubling the maximum annual grant award to $300,000. The bill also empowers the SBA administrator to provide greater flexibility to smaller, more under-resourced WBCs. Under the bill, the SBA administrator may waive, in whole or in part, the nonfederal match requirement for one year based on an analysis of the economic conditions of the grant recipient, the demonstrated ability of the recipient to raise nonfederal funds, and the past performance of the recipient. The bill also sets the responsibilities of the WBCs and requires the SBA to establish an accreditation program for WBCs. Additionally, the bill clarifies the duties of the SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership and codifies the office’s mission in statute among other provisions. 

As a senior member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship and as a former small business owner, Senator Shaheen is a fierce advocate for New Hampshire’s small business community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Shaheen went to bat for small business owners who were among the most severely impacted by the public health crisis. She worked to provide small businesses with the resources they needed to weather and recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19, leading negotiations on provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which established the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and expanded the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, both of which were lifelines for businesses throughout New Hampshire and the country.