Female Business Owners Cleared To Benefit From Sole Source Federal Contracts
Written by Ken Gaebler
New bill allowing women-owned small businesses to qualify for sole-source contracts from federal agencies receives endorsement from SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet.
Female entrepreneurs play an important role in the U.S. small business economy. But they have historically been underrepresented when it comes to the awarding of federal contracts--a concern that recent Congressional legislation will begin to address.
Enacted in early December, the $584.2 billion annual defense authorization bill included a provision that will allow women-owned small businesses to receive sole-source contract awards from federal agencies.
Although the new law is expected to increase federal contract opportunities for female entrepreneurs, it did include several stipulations. Sole-source contracts apply if there is only one women-owned small business that can perform the work and total contract awards are limited to $4 million or $6.5 million for manufacturers.
SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet endorsed the move in light of the fact that the federal government has never met its own goals for contracts to women-owned companies. According to the SBA, female-owned businesses only received 4.3 percent of federal contracts last year--well short of the agency's goal of 5 percent.
The process of getting federal contracts isn't easy for any business. But female entrepreneurs were previously at a disadvantage because they had been excluded from eligibility for sole-source contract awards.
In a report at The Business Journals, Washington Bureau Chief Kent Hoover noted that Congress attempted to boost contract awards to women with the authorization of a program in 2000. But this program failed to allow agencies to award sole-source contracts to women, even though this power was already available for set-aside programs targeting service-disabled veterans, minorities and companies in low-income Hubzones.
With this new legislation, the program for women-owned businesses "will now have parity with every other small business procurement program," said Ann Sullivan of the lobby organization Women Impacting Public Policy.
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