NEW YORK — The government has for the first time reached its goal of giving 5 percent of federal contracting dollars to small businesses owned by women.

Women-owned companies won 5.05 percent, or $17.8 billion, of the contracting dollars available for small companies during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the Small Business Administration said Wednesday. Congress set the 5 percent goal in 1994, but the government couldn't reach it, in part because of restrictions on contracts that women owners could be awarded, according to SBA Associate Administrator John Shoraka.

Congress passed legislation in 2013 that eliminated a $4 million limit on the size of contracts that could be awarded to women-owned businesses. A separate $6.5 million cap on manufacturing contracts was also removed. Both steps helped increase the amount of contracts that women owners got, Shoraka said.

The SBA also implemented the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program in 2011. It allowed contracting officers at federal agencies to set aside specific contracts for women-owned companies. The program also provided information and help for women who wanted to bid on contracts.

More steps are needed to help women win even more contracts, including making more loans available to their companies, said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, who has sponsored legislation aimed at helping women-owned businesses get more loans and contracts.

"We are a long way from making sure the capital is really flowing there," Cantwell said. Also needed is an expansion of the SBA-sponsored Women's Business Development Centers, which give training and mentoring to women owners, Cantwell said. Legislation that would give more federal money to the centers is pending in Congress.

The fiscal year that ended in September also saw the government reach its overall goal for giving 23 percent of contracts to small businesses for the third year in a row. Small businesses won 25.75 percent of contracting dollars, or $90.7 billion, the SBA said.

More information about the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program can be found on the SBA's website,