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Rep. Yvette Clarke Fights for Women Owned Small Businesses

Today, Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke a Member of the House Small Business Committee released the following statement on the House Floor discussing ways we can strengthen woman owned small business:

“As the sole Member of Congressional Black Caucus on the Small Business Committee in the House or the Senate, I am constantly monitoring developments that effect women owned small businesses, especially those in underserved areas.

“Women owned businesses are an important factor in our economy. Recent studies show that there are close to 8 million individual women owned small firms, with a $3 trillion impact on our close to $14 trillion economy, employing close to 23 million people.

“These are great numbers, but I for one believe that more must be done! Not only do I believe it, but the facts bear it out!

“Most recently, I have been hard at work exploring possible solutions for women entrepreneurs.

“Last month, I introduced HR 3771, The Veteran, Minority and Women-Owned Construction Business Mentorship and Grant Assistance Act of 2009.

oThis legislation would establish grant programs for women-owned small business construction companies to help create the internal business systems that are essential for success.

oFunds would also be made available to local groups and schools to bolster technical assistance to these firms.

“This bill would create opportunities in the highly competitive construction sector, at a time when there has been a stark decline in construction activity due to the housing downturn. The legislation is really about building capacity for small firms so that they can better compete for the many stimulus opportunities that are still being developed.

“Another challenge I hope to address in the near term is the relationship between small business sub-contractors and larger prime contractors. Often, large Federal contractors pledge to use certain sub-contractors for projects when submitting bids for federal contracts.

“For example a prime contractor will receive unofficial credit for listing a woman owned firm as a possible subcontractor while submitting a bid. Then, when the project is awarded to the prime, sub-contractors can be cut out at the discretion of the prime. On Capitol Hill and in Brooklyn, we call that the “bait and switch!” I think this practice is unfair, especially to our women owned businesses and I am looking at ways to address this issue.

“Finally, I have been tirelessly working to find ways to improve access to capital for our women owned businesses. It is no secret that our largest depository institutions are not lending as much as they could, but are instead using the excess capital they have to provide capital buffers for their own balance sheet health, retarding any rebound that could be fueled by small business lending.

“I applaud President Obama for announcing that his Administration will be seeking low cost loans to smaller banks and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI’s) as a means to address the small business lending gap.

“I am especially supportive of CDFI’s as a means to getting credit to our smaller women-owned firms in underserved and economically distressed areas. For every dollar of CDFI investment, $15 of non-federal dollars are leveraged to provide lending to deserving borrowers.

“As I said earlier, these are but a few of the challenges faced by women owned businesses. I am always paying attention to the issues affecting our women entrepreneurs and I will for as long as I am a Member of Congress. Much work is left to be done, but with the great leadership of people like Congresswoman Fudge, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, I know we will get to where we need to be, and beyond. I yield back the balance of my time.”