Small businesses will now have access to an estimated $16 billion in federal spending once reserved almost exclusively for larger firms, under a Senate bill passed Wednesday.

Because federal purchases under $2,500 made by credit card are not subject to bidding -- unlike major government contracts -- small businesses have traditionally lost out to larger, more established competitors. The Purchase Card Waste Elimination Act, passed unanimously, seeks to level the playing field.

"My amendment directs the Office of Management and Budget to better track federal government credit card purchases and meet a 23% small businesses participation goal for purchases up to $2,500,' Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), chairwoman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said in a statement. 'The federal government must work with the credit card industry and must train its purchasing officials to ensure that small businesses have access to these opportunities."