Houlahan Bill to Support Small Businesses Unanimously Passes House
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, Representative Chrissy Houlahan’s (D-PA) bipartisan Small Business Contracting Transparency Act of 2023 passed the House unanimously. Houlahan introduced her bill, H.R. 4670, alongside Representative Pete Stauber (R-MN) earlier this year to help small businesses owned by women, service-disabled veterans, and those in designated economically distressed census tracts, counties, or Indian Reservations better compete for federal contracts. Both Republicans and Democrats widely supported the legislation, passing it unanimously.
“As a former entrepreneur who built and scaled several businesses in southeastern Pennsylvania, I am all too familiar with the challenges many small business owners face,” said Houlahan. “Ensuring that women, veterans, and underrepresented communities have fair access to federal contracts is an important step in expanding opportunities for small businesses while making sure the federal government has access to the widest possible selection of quality goods and services.”
Houlahan continued: “For decades, the Small Business Administration has supported programs to help federal dollars go to small businesses that reflect the makeup of our nation. These programs have helped scores of Americans, but with additional oversight and data we can continue to improve their efficiency and impact.”
To improve the oversight, transparency, and efficiency of various Small Business Administration (SBA) programs, the legislation would require the SBA to submit annual reports on, among other data:
· The number of small businesses certified to participate in the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) program, the HUBZone program, and the Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) program.
· The total dollar amount and percentage of federal contracts awarded to qualifying small businesses in each SBA program.
· The number of ineligible businesses found to be erroneously awarded a contract in each SBA program.
According to current federal law and congressional intent, agencies across the federal government aim to award 5% of all federal contract dollars to women-owned small businesses, 3% to economically distressed regions through the HUBZone program, and 3% to small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans. Unfortunately, SBA struggles to meet these goals year after year. For example, only twice since 2000 has the federal government successfully awarded 5% of all federal contract dollars to women-owned small businesses.
Houlahan spoke in support of her bill on the House floor. Watch her remarks here or read them as prepared below:
Thank you, Mister Speaker. I rise today to urge my colleagues to vote for my bipartisan, commonsense legislation, the Small Business Contracting Transparency Act, which will help level the playing field for underrepresented entrepreneurs across the country.
I would like very much to thank my Republican colleague, Representative Peter Stauber, for his partnership on this legislation, and furthermore, Chairman Williams and Ranking Member Velázquez for their leadership in advancing this legislation through the Small Business Committee on a unanimous basis.
As a former entrepreneur myself, I understand the many challenges that come with running and scaling a business. Every day brings unique challenges, and I regularly hear from business owners in my community, in Pennsylvania’s Sixth Congressional District, who are navigating inflation, supply chain challenges, workforce needs, and more.
One way our federal government can help entrepreneurs address these issues, and ultimately succeed, is through providing contracting opportunities for small business owners. For entrepreneurs seeking to do business with our federal government, I know that every contract secured or lost, can be the difference in keeping Americans on payroll or losing them, expanding or scaling back their operations, or beating or meeting your projections.
That is why the federal small business contracting programs are so important. Through these programs, the federal government maintains various statutory goals to ensure equitable participation among small businesses and, importantly, underrepresented small businesses in federal contracting.
Across the various agencies, the federal government aims to provide 5% of federal prime contracts to women-owned small businesses, 3% to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, and 3% to Historically Underutilized Business Zone, otherwise known as “HUB-Zone,” small businesses.
While figures like “5%,” and “3%,” may not sound like large targets to meet, our federal government unfortunately struggles to meet these goals on a regular basis.
In Fiscal Year 2022, the Federal government failed to reach its targets for both women-owned and HUB-Zone small businesses. Even more troubling, the Federal government has only met the statutory goal of awarding 5% of contracts to women-owned businesses twice in the last 23 years.
In addition, the Government Accountability Office has cited deficiencies in the Small Business Administration’s oversight of the program.
It’s clear that disadvantaged entrepreneurs continue to be underrepresented when it comes to federal contract funding, and that’s hurting the economy, both locally and across the country. It’s past time that Congress acts to ensure these programs are working as intended.
That is why I introduced my bill, H.R. 4670, the bipartisan Small Business Contracting Transparency Act.
My legislation will increase transparency, oversight, and accountability in the Small Business Administration’s Women-Owned, Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned, and HUB-Zone small business contracting programs.
Notably, the bill requires SBA to submit to Congress annual reports benchmarking crucial data, including: the number of small businesses certified, the total dollar amount of contracts awarded to qualifying businesses, and the number of contracts incorrectly awarded to ineligible recipients, among other figures.
Simply put, my bill, the Small Business Contracting Transparency Act, will allow Congress and the SBA to improve these federal contracting programs, ensure the programs run efficiently, and ultimately benefit disadvantaged entrepreneurs in their pursuit of securing government contracts. In turn, we will strengthen our economy, support Main Streets in every zip code, and grow the middle class.
The time to act is now, especially as the federal government works to award additional contracts through the historic implementation of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act.
I would like to thank my Republican colleague, Representative Pete Stauber, for his partnership on this legislation. Furthermore, I thank Chairman Williams and Ranking Member Velazquez for their leadership in advancing this legislation through the Small Business Committee on a unanimous basis.
Once again, I urge my colleagues to vote for the Small Business Contracting Transparency Act, which will help level the playing field for entrepreneurs in Pennsylvania and across the nation.
Thank you, and I yield the balance of my time.
Read the full text of the bill here.
Houlahan is an Air Force veteran, an engineer, a serial entrepreneur, an educator, and a nonprofit leader. She represents Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District, which encompasses Chester County and southern Berks County. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. She is the recipient of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Abraham Lincoln Leadership for America Award which “recognizes members who demonstrate the bipartisan leadership and constructive governing necessary to move our country forward” and the Congressional Management Foundation’s 2022 Democracy Award for best Constituent Services in Congress.