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SBA Women's Business Centers are looking at a $2 million budget cut in the federal administration's FY 2019 plan

The latest data shows there are more than 11 million women who now own firms in the U.S., an increase of 45 percent since 2007. Economically, they employ 9 million and generate $1.6 trilliong in revenues — and Senator Ron Wyden is among those who want to make sure the nation's economy continues to benefit from then.PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: FILE PHOTO - Economies that successfully utilize women in the workplace (50 percent of the working population) is the main driver between first world and developing nations.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and 18 other senators have penned a letter to the Senate requesting $18 million for the Small Business Administration's (SBA) Women's Business Centers (WBC) program.

The program, already considered underfunded, is in line to see a funding cut in the presidential administration's 2019 budget: the proposal includes only $16 million in funding for the program, down $2 million from the current level. Funding for this program has remained flat for several years.

The Women's Business Center program was first established under the Women's Business Ownership Act of 1988 to provide specialized assistance to women starting a business, particularly in economically and socially disadvantaged communities.

The Act was officially introduced by John LaFalce (D-NY) aimed at aiding the success of women business entrepreneurs. It provides a basis for policies, programs, public and private sector initiatives supporting women's business endeavors.

It came after the establishment of the U.S. Small Business Administration's office of Women's Business Ownership in response to an executive order in 1979 to foster participation of women entrepreneurs.

According to SBA.gov, the SBA backed 10,000 loans worth $2 billion to women entrepreneurs in fiscal year 2009, and SBA-licensed intermediaries made nearly 1,230 microloans worth over $13.8 million to businesses 51 percent or more women-owned.

Fiscal year 2009 also saw 38 women-owned businesses receive$26.8 million in investment capital through the SBA's small business investment companies.

Under the Recovery Act, the SBA has leveraged $375 million in stimulus funds into more than $16 billion in lending to small businesses, almost 20 percent of which has gone to women-owned businesses.

More recently in fiscal year 2017, the program served more than 148,000 women entrepreneurs around the country, helping them access nearly $500 million in private capital, establish more than 17,000 new businesses and create more than 23,000 new jobs.

"More and more women are starting their own small businesses. WBCs have assisted more than 2 million women in this effort," the senators wrote. "The latest data shows that there are more than 11 million women who now own firms in the United States, an increase of 45 percent since 2007 and 5 times the national average rate. Together, women-owned businesses have 9 million employees and generate $1.6 trillion in revenues."

Wyden has been a strong supporter of funding for the WBCs program, and has continued to work to enhance business opportunities for women entrepreneurs in Oregon and nationwide. Wyden is a cosponsor of the Women's Small Business Ownership Act, which would secure robust funding for WBCs.

By Jules Rogers
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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Web: sba.gov/offices/headquarters/wbo

The SBA has a number of initiatives to help women secure better access to procurement opportunities. These include online procurement training at www.sba.gov/women, training through its resource partners, matchmaking events that target both the federal and private procurement arenas, and the 8(a) Business Development Program. The SBA also works with federal agencies to increase contracting opportunities and achieve the government's 5 percent contracting goal for women-owned small businesses.

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