During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama said his administration "would direct the Small Business Administration to amend regulations under the Small Business Act that provide preferences in federal contracting to small businesses owned by members of socially and economically disadvantaged groups to include individuals with disabilities."
There is no indication today that this promise is being pushed ahead.
"To my knowledge, there is no discussion of creating a set-aside contracting program for people with disabilities," said Hayley Meadvin, the press secretary for the Small Business Administration.
That said, SBA is working on a related training-and-mentorship program that's designed to benefit small business owners with disabilities -- the Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities, or EBV. SBA had already been partnering with Syracuse University, the University of Connecticut, UCLA, Florida State University, Texas A&M and Purdue University. It is preparing to expand the program to Louisiana State University as well.
Meadvin said that so far under the program, more than 320 wounded veterans have graduated, launching a combined 150 businesses.
In the meantime, the SBA continues to grapple with allegations that an existing program -- the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business program -- is not working correctly. On May 24, 2010, Gregory D. Kutz, managing director for forensic audits and special investigations at the Government Accounting Office, followed on several years of GAO criticisms about fraud and waste by testifying to Congress that "a complete fraud prevention framework is necessary in order to minimize fraud, waste, and abuse within the SDVOSB program."
Still, both this program and the Entrepreneurship Boot Camp are for veterans specifically, not for civilians who are disabled -- who were the target of Obama's original promise. With no sign of progress on the promise to give preferential treatment to the broader universe of small businesses owned by people with disabilities, we are moving our rating from Stalled to Promise Broken.