It’s been a long time coming — make that a very long time — but the federal government has finally gotten around to issuing proposed rules for a program to help women-owned small businesses win federal contracts.
In fact, it’s been seven years. Back in 2000, Congress enacted legislation that was signed into law ordering the Small Business Administration to come up with a plan to award more contracts to women-owned firms. They were supposed to get the same leg up in competing for contracts as businesses owned by veterans, the disabled and minorities.
The program was one of the examples I cited in a column July 19 about how the Bush administration was merely shuffling papers on such laws, neither enforcing them nor attempting to remove them from the books.
“For seven long years, the SBA has studied and restudied this issue. We have waited long enough,” said Magdalah Silva, president and chief executive of a management and technology consulting firm in Washington, during congressional testimony. Silva was testifying on behalf of a bipartisan, nonprofit Washington group known as Women Impacting Public Policy.
The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce sued the government three years ago to force the SBA to establish the program. While female business owners finally got their wish, some are still skeptical. “Everyone’s pretty cynical about whether it’s going to happen and when. The administration doesn’t really seem to be committed to it,” Molly Gimmel, president of the Northern Virginia chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, told the Washington Business Journal.
Under federal law, the government is supposed to set aside a minimum of 5 percent of all federal contracts for women-owned businesses. It has never met that goal. The final rules should be wrapped up and ready to go with the start of the new federal fiscal year in October.