Finally, A Seat at the Table
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Finally, A Seat at the Table
By Robin Berg Tabakin, Esq., MBA
Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) held its 2014 Annual Leadership Meeting on July 22 through July 24 in Washington DC. The meeting focused on support of needed improvements to the Women’s Procurement Program. It has been a long time coming, but because of the intense efforts of WIPP leadership and support of its 75 coalition partners, including NJAWBO, and 4.7 million members across America, Barbara Kasoff, President, Co-Founder, and the driving force behind WIPP announced that women finally have a seat at the table.
The Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract Program was implemented in 2011 to expand federal contract opportunities for WOSBs and to better enable federal agencies to meet the statutory goal of awarding 5% of prime contract dollars to WOSBs. The Small Business Administration (SBA) identified 83 four-digit NAICS codes in which WOSBs are underrepresented or substantially underrepresented. For contracts within these 83 NAICS codes, contract officers may set aside competitions for WOSBs or Economically Disadvantaged Women Owned Businesses (EDWOSB), depending on the NAICS code, if the contract can be awarded at a fair and reasonable price, and there is a reasonable expectation that two or more WOSBs or EDWOSBs will submit offers. Dollar caps of $5 million for manufacturing contracts and $3 million for other contracts were eliminated in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) recently introduced The Women’s Small Business Parity Act of 2014 (S.2481). This bill will provide sole source authority to the WOSB Procurement Program. Other programs such as 8(a), HUBZone, Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business, and Veteran Owned Small Business have sole source authority. According to WIPP, $50 billion contract dollars were designated for small business in FY2013. Sole source contracts accounted for $7.8 billion (15%), and although WOSBs make up almost 30% of all businesses, sole source ability is not available to WOSBs. S.2481 will also accelerate the deadline for the required SBA disparity study, which will allow the SBA to identify additional industries where WOSBs are underrepresented. This would expand the reach of the WOSB Procurement Program by giving federal agencies the ability to set aside competitions for contracts in additional NAICS codes. Similar provisions have already been passed in the House of Representatives as part of the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act.
The Senate Committee on Small Business Ownership officially released its report, “21st Century Barriers to Women’s Entrepreneurship” during a committee hearing on July 23, 2014. According to WIPP, this report highlights three specific issues facing women business owners including fair access to capital, equal access to federal contracts, and relevant business training and counseling.
Over 250 WIPP members and women business owners from across the country attended this hearing and heard testimony from SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, Barbara Corcoran of ABC's Shark Tank, Nely Galan, former president of Telemundo, and WIPP member Lynn Sutton, CEO of Advantage Building Contractors in Atlanta. Their testimony centered on barriers that WOSBs are still experiencing today.
On July 31, 2014, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business & Ownership introduced The Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2014, S. 2693. This Act includes S.2481, noted above, enhances the SBA’s Microloan Program and makes the SBA Intermediary Lending Program permanent. It also increases funding for the Women’s Business Center Program. WIPP strongly supports S.2693 and will work with Senator Cantwell to move this very important legislation forward.