Sen. Kerry Previews Women's Business Hearing

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who chairs the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, previewed his upcoming hearing on women's procurement and other business issues at a luncheon today.

"Some of my colleagues have perhaps not completely either woken up to the fact or become aware of the fact that women represent some $2 trillion worth of business that is being done in this country, and anywhere from 23 to 25 million American workers in our nation," he said.

He plans to examine the Women's Business Center program, which is partly funded by the Small Business Administration.

"What we're going to look at tomorrow is partly... how we can... improve the technical assistance and... training... that are part of what the Women's Business Centers do so effectively," he told attendees at a luncheon that was part of the Powerful Policy and Politics conference, co-hosted by <Women Impacting Public Policy and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

There has been disagreement between the Small Business Administration and lawmakers over legal language addressing funding for the longest-serving centers. The SBA released a statement Wednesday saying the agency supports the WBC program but is seeking "further clarification on the intent of the legislation and plans to implement it in the upcoming year."

Kerry said the hearing also will focus on a procurement program to aid small businesses. The Women's Procurement Program was signed into law in 2000, but seven years later it has not been implemented.

"We put [the program] in place... specifically because there's a lot of money out there that the federal government is putting out to bid...and not enough of it has been going to women-owned enterprises."

He noted that about $6 billion over the last few years has been lost to women enterprises as a consequence of the Bush administration not implementing a plan that was put into place a few years ago.

"So we're pushing the Bush administration - this is bipartisan... to put it into place," he said. "Tomorrow, I'm going to ask them again whether or not they are going to meet the goal of by end of the fiscal year, which is Sept. 30, having this procurement program for women fully in place."

He said important issues facing women-owned businesses besides getting access to capital are health-care plans and costs. He highlighted the rapid rise of cancer among young women and said small businesses have a role in educating the public about the "toxic burden" many creams, cosmetics and other products have when applied to the skin. a

"In Europe, they've banned 256 (chemical) substances in the last 20 years and we've banned five," he said. "It's a critical issue with respect to health costs. Small businesses can play an important role in educating people about this and save us a lot of money in the long run on health care... through prevention rather than always responding when it's late in the cycle."

By Sharon McLoone |  September 19, 2007; 5:56 PM ET
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