Recently, we wrote about the Congress’ Women’s Business Centers Improvements Act of 2019 (H.R. 4405). Since the Act passed the House in October, SBA has independently codified improved rules for the Women’s Business Center Program.
As a reminder, the Women’s Business Center Program (or “WBC Program”) was first introduced by SBA in 1988. Currently, SBA lists 116 different centers located across the United States. By law, SBA is authorized to provide grant assistance to private, nonprofit organizations to carry out 5-year projects to benefit small businesses owned and controlled by women.
While the WBC Program is entirely separate from SBA’s WOSB/EDWOSB program, the centers can also provide assistance to WOSBs. In general, WBCs provide a number of resources for women entrepreneurs, including business tools, training, and other resources. For an example of services provided by WBCs, check out this website. Overall, the WBC Program is most similar to the SBA’s Small Business Development Center (“SBDC”) Program, which offers counseling, training and technical management assistance to small businesses.
In 2016, SBA issued a proposed rule for the WBC Program, outlining potential program requirements and requesting public comment. At long last, SBA is now finalizing that rule as an entirely new part of SBA’s regulations.
Because the WBC Program can provide key assistance to many contractors, it’s good to highlight what the new rules do.
To begin with, 13 C.F.R. § 131.110 “defines 57 words and phrases used in the management and oversight of the WBC Program.” It explains that WBCs “represent a national network of educational centers throughout the United States and its territories that assist women in starting and growing small businesses.” In the following subsections, the regulations explain the kinds of entities that can serve as WBCs (non-profits with 501(c) certifications) and those that are ineligible, as well as the operating requirements for any WBC.
13 C.F.R. § 131.330 describes the services WBC’s must be equipped to provide to prospective entrepreneurs and existing small businesses, including training, counseling, and other specialized services which will “enhance a small business concern’s ability to access capital, such as business plan development, financial statement preparation/analysis, and cash flow preparation/analysis.”
Many of the remaining rules describe the federal grants WBCs may receive and how it may utilize them. Currently, Congress has capped annual WBC grants at $150,000, but there is at least one bill working its way through the Senate that might increase that number.
All in all, the new rules provide clearer guidelines about WBC assistance. They go into effect January 24, 2020. If you have any questions about the WBC rules, or the new WOSB certification rules (which we anticipate will go into effect around the New Year) give us a call!
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