March 06, 2019

Duckworth, Ernst Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Help Level Playing Field for Women & Veteran Small Business Owners in Small Business Contracting


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) today introduced bipartisan legislation to eliminate a discrepancy that puts women and Veterans with a service-connected disability who own small businesses at a disadvantage when competing for federal government contracts.

“If we want to help main street, we need to make it easier for small businesses to expand their business and hire new workers,” Duckworth said. “This bipartisan legislation will help do that by leveling the playing field for small businesses that are owned by women and Veterans with service-connected disabilities and are competing for federal contracts. By doing so, this bill will expand opportunities for these small businesses, and encourage economic growth.”

“Iowa is the proud home to more than 200 women-owned small businesses and more than 50 small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans. Starting and operating a small business is an exciting and rewarding experience, but it comes with risk,” said Ernst. “Women- and veteran-owned small businesses should be afforded the same contracting opportunities as businesses certified under other programs. This bipartisan measure is a sensible and simple fix to help ensure all of Iowa’s small business owners get a fair shot to compete and succeed.”

Under current law, certified small businesses can be awarded sole-source contracts as a way of ensuring they are not forced out of opportunities by larger multiple-award contracts that are generally more difficult for them to obtain. However, while federal law allows certified small businesses to receive soul-source contracts of up to $7 million for manufacturing, Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs) are limited to contracts of up to $6.5 million.

The Expanding Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses Act would eliminate this discrepancy and ensure that all small businesses, regardless of the program they are certified under, have access to federal contracts of the same amount. The bill would also strengthen oversight of the eligibility process for the program and give the Small Business Administration (SBA) more authority to identify and deter fraud and abuse in the contracting process.

Duckworth serves on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Her bipartisan Veterans Small Business Enhancement Act, which became law at the beginning of this year, will help Veteran entrepreneurs start and grow small businesses. Duckworth’s new law will allow Veteran small business owners to acquire equipment and personal property that the federal government no longer has a use for by adding Veterans to the list of eligible recipients for federal surplus property, which already includes women and minority small business owners as well as Veterans Service Organizations.