President Joe Biden, joined by Administrator of the Small Business Administration Isabella Casillas Guzman to his left, arrives at the SBA Women's Business Summit in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo
March 27 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden announced new federal resources to support small businesses owned by women as the administration ramps up economic recovery efforts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The president spoke at the second annual Small Business Administration Women's Business Summit, where he touted the expansion of a nationwide network of Women Business Centers that assist female entrepreneurs through training, mentoring, business development and financing opportunities.
"Today it's all about lifting up women entrepreneurs and making sure they have the support they need to succeed," Biden said. "You're innovators. You're job creators. And small businesses are the engine of our economy -- the absolute engine. They're the glue and the heart and the soul of our communities."
The expansion -- which features 15 new sites -- establishes 160 total locations across all 50 states at a cost of about $70 million, the White House said, while emphasizing that "women still face unique obstacles in the business world."
Many of the centers are located at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions.
The move comes after a record 10.5 million applications to start new businesses were filed during the last two years, the White House said in touting the results of the president's Investments In America policy.
The administration's focus on women was timed to coincide with Women's History Month and comes as administration data shows female entrepreneurs own as many as 12 million businesses nationwide, while accounting for nearly half of all new businesses launched in the United States in 2021.
Last year, businesswomen also increased their annual earnings by an average of nearly 30%, while female business owners in the manufacturing sector saw a bigger 35% jump, the White House said.
Since taking office more than two years ago, Biden has taken multiple actions to shore up small business growth, while providing extensive support services to female business owners who lack access to technical expertise, accountants, and lawyers that typically give an edge to the bigger brand names.
The administration has invested $100 million in grants through the Community Navigators Pilot Program, to help level the playing field for small businesses.
The initiative, which focuses on socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses, rural communities, and small businesses owned by women and veterans, is part of a $30 million proposal in Biden's 2024 budget that he announced earlier this month.
During his remarks, Biden was expected to also tout the creation of the Minority Business Development Agency, which connects minority-owned businesses to private lenders, exporters, and public- and private-sector buyers.
Other government investments will expand small business access to $10 billion in capital provided through the president's State Small Business Credit Initiative, which helps "states, territories, and tribal governments leverage billions more in matching public and private dollars to support small businesses across the United States," the White House said.
"It's about leverage. This is vital," Biden said. "Because -- we know that plenty of companies with potential don't get off the ground, or can't grow because they can't get the startup funds or venture capital. This can be a major barrier for women entrepreneurs."
The program has also delivered more than $10 billion in capital to women-owned small businesses through loan programs over the last two years.
Biden is also expected to lay out his plan to leverage federal spending to support small businesses as the government pays more than $600 billion every year for goods and services.
"This administration is committed to ensure that federal spending supports entrepreneurship and wealth creation," the White House said.
Biden called for a 50% increase in federal contracting dollars awarded to small, disadvantaged businesses over the next five years, which would bring an additional $100 billion in cash to underserved small businesses, many which are owned by women, the White House said.
Funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act will also be used to support the program.
"Women are more than 50 percent of the population, to state the obvious," the president said. "We want to have the strongest economy in the world. We can't leave half the workforce behind. It's that simple."
In February, three states and two U.S. territories were approved to receive $339 million in federal funding as part of the Biden's continuing effort to support small businesses, which the White House has described as "the engines of our economy."
Four additional states were approved to receive $353 million in funding for small businesses under the State Small Business Credit Initiative, which is part of President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan.
In 2021, the administration awarded 154.2 billion in federal dollars to small businesses -- which was $8 billion more than the previous fiscal year.
Following the president's remarks, SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman will lead a panel discussion among U.S. female business executives.