Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Reported to Senate with amendment(s) (10/08/2015)

Women's Small Business Ownership Act of 2015

(Sec. 3) This bill amends the Small Business Act to direct the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Women's Business Ownership to address issues concerning specified disciplines required for starting, operating, and increasing a small business.

The Office must work with SBA officials and collaborate with non-SBA entities to ensure that the work of the women's business center program:

  • maximizes taxpayer dollars, and
  • coordinates effectively with and is not duplicative of other federal and private sector programs.

The mission of the Office shall be to assist women entrepreneurs in starting, growing, and competing in global markets by providing quality support with access to capital, access to markets, job creation, growth, counseling, and training in a specified manner.

The SBA must:

  • provide annual programmatic and financial examination training for women's business center representatives,
  • award grants or enter into contracts or cooperative agreements related to the training, and
  • develop plans for a professional development training program for women's business centers and for a women's business center accreditation program.

(Sec. 4) "Women's business center" shall mean a project conducted by any of the following eligible entities:

  • a private nonprofit organization;
  • a state, regional, or local economic development organization;
  • a state-chartered development, credit, or finance corporation;
  • a junior or community college; or
  • any combination of these entities.

The SBA may award:

  • up to $250,000 of financial assistance to eligible entities per project year to conduct projects designed to provide training and counseling meeting the needs of women, especially socially and economically disadvantaged women; and
  • more than $250,000 additional assistance in a given project year for which the eligible entity has obtained more than that amount in non-federal contributions and is otherwise in good standing, has met performance goals, and proposes a new project to use the additional funds.

The bill prescribes further requirements for applications for initial financial assistance (and for renewal grants) as well as selection criteria, including a requirement that an applicant's principal place of business be more than 50 miles from a women's business center's principal place of business unless specified criteria are met.

The bill authorizes appropriations for FY2017-FY2020.

(Sec. 5) The SBA, upon request by an eligible entity, may waive for a fiscal year (but no more than two consecutive fiscal years) the requirement to obtain matching non-federal funds for the entity's technical assistance and counseling activities carried out using financial assistance under the program. The bill specifies considerations to be taken in determining whether to grant such a waiver.

An eligible entity may:

  • solicit cash and in-kind contributions from private individuals and entities for use in carrying out the entity's activities under the project, and
  • use amounts made available by the SBA for the cost of the solicitation and management of the contributions received.

The amount of non-federal dollars obtained by an eligible entity above the amount it is required to obtain, and not used as matching funds to implement the women's business center program, shall not be subject to uniform administrative requirements, cost principles, and audit requirements for federal awards.