Representative Nydia M. Velázquez has made history several times during her tenure in Congress. In 1992, she was the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She returns to the position of Chairwoman after being the first Hispanic woman to serve as Ranking Member of a full committee in the history of the House in 1998 and as Chair in 2006.
She was born in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico - a small town of sugar-cane fields - in 1953, and was one of nine children. Velázquez started school early, skipped several grades, and became the first person in her family to receive a college diploma. At the age of 16, she entered the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras. She graduated magna cum laude in 1974 with a degree in political science. After earning a master’s degree on scholarship from N.Y.U., Velázquez taught Puerto Rican studies at CUNY’s Hunter College in 1981.
As Chairwoman, Representative Velázquez oversees the Small Business Administration (SBA), the only federal agency devoted to supporting this nation’s entrepreneurial sector, and its financing, contracting, and technical assistance programs. She also has oversight of all of the federal agencies’ regulatory and paperwork requirements that impact small firms, as well as federal policies and legislation that affect small businesses.
Throughout her tenure on the committee, she has been a champion on issues of importance to small businesses. Following Hurricane Katrina, Velázquez took the lead in working to ensure small business owners received the disaster assistance they had been promised. She requested several GAO investigations into SBA’s response, invited small business owners from the Gulf Coast to testify in front of the committee on their personal situations, and released several reports on the progress of the disaster loan program following Katrina. These investigations led to the comprenhensive reform of the SBA's disaster programs.
Representative Velázquez has worked to expand opportunities for women and minority business owners. She created the women’s procurement program, which was signed into law in 2001, that would help female entrepreneurs to receive more contracting opportunities.
Although her work on the Small Business Committee and the House Financial Services Committee keeps her busy, Ranking Member Velázquez can often be found close to home, working for the residents of New York's 7th District. Her district encompasses parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City, making it one of the most diverse districts in the nation.