House Passes FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act With Important Small Business Provisions

The House of Representatives passed the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 351 to 66, prior to congressional recess. The annual defense spending measure would allow the Pentagon to spend $686 billion in the 2019 fiscal year. The legislation included important small business provisions:

Technical Assistance for Small Business: The Department of Defense (DOD) is directed to develop a small business strategy that would include a unified management structure for small business programs. DOD would also be responsible for outlining how they will engage in outreach and technical assistance to facilitate small business participation in defense programs.

Prompt Payment: The Department of Defense (DOD) is directed to accelerate payments to small business prime contractors and subcontractors, with the goal of making payment within 15 days of receiving an invoice.

Adjustments: Solicitations for small business contracts would have to include information about the agency’s policies and performance in responding to requests for compensation changes.

Expansion of Microloan Program: The loan limit in the SBA’s microloan program would be increased from $5 million to $6 million after a recipient’s first year of participation. The program allows intermediary lenders to provide loans for business development, as well as marketing, management, and technical assistance, to minority-owned or disadvantaged small businesses. Another change is the time allocation for technical assistance providers. Intermediaries could spend as much as 50% (instead of the current 25%) of their grant funds to provide information and technical assistance to prospective borrowers.

Increased Investment Limit for Small Business Investment Companies (SBICs): Banks and savings associations could invest as much as 15% of their capital and surplus in small business investment companies (SBICs) if approved by federal banking regulators. The limit is currently 5%. The maximum amount of leverage available to SBICs would be increased to $175 million from $150 million.

SBIR/STTR: Federal agencies are directed to set aside a share of their research budget for the Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR). Agencies with larger research budgets must also set funds aside for the Small Business Technology Transfer program (STTR). This provision would allow federal agencies to use as much as 3% of reserved funds for program administration. It would also allow all agencies with SBIR programs in FY2018 through FY2022 to provide phase II grants, which focus on development and delivery of an innovation, regardless of whether a small business had first received a phase I grant for initial research.

Broadband & Information Technology: The SBA’s Office of Investment and Innovation is directed to designate an employee as the broadband and emerging information technology coordinator. They would be responsible for connecting small businesses with financing programs, and advising these businesses on how to acquire broadband and new information technology.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved their FY2019 legislation. The full Senate is expected to begin debate on the bill in the next week or two.

Federal Government Falls Short of Meeting Women-Owned Small Business Contracting Goal in FY2017

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) released their FY2017 Small Business Procurement Scorecard this week, which shows that the federal government failed to meet the 5% goal of prime federal contracts awarded to woman-owned small businesses (WOSBs).  Only 4.71% of prime contracts – down from 4.79% in FY2016 – went to women-owned small businesses, though the amount of contracting dollars slightly increased from $19.7 billion to $20.8 billion.

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The Small Business Procurement Scorecard is released annually by SBA as a tool to measure how well federal agencies reach their small business and socio-economic prime contracting and subcontracting goals as well as report agency-specific progress.  The only year the federal government met the 5% goal of prime contracts awarded to WOSBs was in FY2015.  

On a positive note, SBA highlighted that the federal government overall met its 23% small business federal contracting goal for the fifth consecutive year, awarding 23.88% in federal contract dollars to small businesses totaling $105.7 billion.  Additionally, the 5% goal on subcontracting to woman-owned small businesses was exceeded, with 6.2% of subcontracts going to WOSBs, up from 5.7% in FY2016.

Learn more here.

 

Seven Small Business Bills Approved by the House of Representatives

This month, the House voted to pass seven of nine small business bills under suspension of the rules— a procedure used to quickly pass non-controversial bills. The seven bills that passed:

  • Small Business Development Center Cyber Training Act (H.R. 3170):  The Small Business Administration would offer cybersecurity and related planning assistance. The bill would require the SBA to train Small Business Development Center employees in counseling small businesses on cybersecurity questions.
  • Change Order Transparency for Federal Contractors Act (H.R. 4754):  Small business contractors and subcontractors seeking bids for federal construction projects would receive improved information from agencies including performance data and policies on change orders.
  • Women’s Business Centers Improvements Act (H.R. 1680):  The Office of Women’s Business Ownership’s responsibilities would be modified and it would be authorized to make larger grants to women’s business centers.
  • Small Business Development Centers Improvement Act (H.R. 1702): The SBA’s Small Business Development Center grant program would be modified and given new reporting requirements.
  • Spurring Business in Communities Act (H.R. 4111):  The creation of new Small Business Investment Companies in underserved states would be promoted under this bill.
  • Main Street Employee Ownership Act (H.R. 5236):  Employee cooperatives would become eligible for loans backed by the Small Business Administration. The bill would also allow loans to be made to a small business to facilitate employees’ purchase of the firm. The measure also would require additional agency outreach to promote employee purchase of companies.
  • Small Business 7(a) Lending Oversight Reform Act (H.R. 4743):  The Small Business Administration’s Office of Credit Risk Management would be codified and given new oversight responsibilities for the 7(a) program.

The two bills that did not pass were Small Business Advanced Cybersecurity Enhancements Act (H.R. 4668), which would create a central small business cybersecurity assistance unit and small business cybersecurity assistance units in each small business development center, and the SCORE for Small Business Act (H.R. 1700), reauthorizing the SCORE program.

WIPP Action Alert: Urge Your Members of Congress to Support the Accelerated Payments for Small Business Act!

Contact Your Members of Congress to Support the Accelerated Payments for Small Business Act (H.R. 5337)!

House Small Business Committee member, Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA) recently introduced the Accelerated Payments for Small Business Act of 2018 (H.R. 5337) which would direct federal agencies to make payments to small business prime contractors within 15 days of sending an invoice. This important legislation needs to move quickly to maintain assurance of prompt payment for small business contractors in the federal contracting arena.

Please contact your Representative and urge them to support the Accelerated Payments for Small Business Act of 2018.

Not sure what to say? Use this sample script:

My name is _____________, I am a constituent and [owner/founder/president] of [business name]. As a woman-owned small business contractor, I am calling to urge the Congress[woman/man] to co-sponsor H.R. 5337, the Accelerated Payments for Small Business Act of 2018. This bill is crucial for small business contractors, like me, because it would direct federal agencies to make payments to small business prime contractors within 15 days of sending an invoice. This is a common issue for small business contractors who rely on a consistent flow of income in order to be able to continue to serve their customer – the federal government. Ensuring prompt payment for small business contractors will help provide stability for companies who suffer large consequences when payments are delayed. Please ask the Congress(man/woman) to support H.R. 5337 and consider cosponsoring the bill. Thank you for your time.

Visit WIPP’s Legislative Action Center to Call Your Representative!

WIPP Works in Washington – May 2018

“Grow – Don’t Grow”

Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

We’ve all experienced a difficult friend or boss who tells you “do this” and then when you do it, they say “no I didn’t mean it that way.”  Then you spend the next hour trying to undo the thing they told you to do in the first place. Frustrating, right? 

That is largely what the federal government has been telling small businesses who enter public sector contracting.  The message to small businesses is “grow.”  The SBA and its stakeholders pour significant resources into helping small businesses succeed.  Those range from SBA District offices in every state, lending and counseling programs and support for programs like ChallengeHER that WIPP sponsors.

Organizations like WIPP encourage their members to think about federal contracting as a complement to commercial business.  We have spent an inordinate amount of resources promoting policies such as the women-owned small business contracting program, subcontracting and acquisition strategies designed to provide more opportunities for the government to buy from women-owned firms.

But then, the government says “wait don’t grow” by implementing a pretty rigid system of determining when a company is too big to be small.  SBA determines this by a system called size standards.  The government determines the average size of business revenue in industry categories and sets a size that a business cannot exceed in order to take advantage of small business contracting programs.  The SBA then takes the average of the last three years of your revenue, deciding whether you are small or have exceeded the size standard, bumping you into being a midsize company.  Ouch.

This is exactly the position WIPP Chair, Lisa Firestone finds herself in.  She testified at a House Small Business Committee hearing on the challenges larger small businesses face when approaching the top of their size standard. Lisa testified on behalf of WIPP, telling her story of watching her company, Managed Care Advisors go from a small boutique healthcare consulting company to the leading provider of Federal Workers’ Compensation Case Management Services. She grew a four-person company to facing a daunting dilemma of growing beyond the $15 million size standard for her industry.

Witnesses at the hearing, “No Man’s Land: Middle-Market Challenges for Small Business Graduates,” discussed the issue of options available to small businesses who reach the top of their size standard.  Should they stay small, sell their business or venture into a midsize company that has to compete for government business with the 110 very large companies? According to Bloomberg Government’s recent report, Mid-Tier Market Report: 2018, only 325 companies have made the decision to be a midsize vendor to the federal government.  This is in contrast to the 118,000 small businesses who sell to the federal government.

How can this trend be reversed?  The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, a WIPP partner in the initiative, “Pathway to Growth” proposes the following recommendations:

  1. Agency: Bring Multiple Award Contracts (MAC) requirements in line with the capabilities of midsize firms. It is essential to sustain midsize businesses participation on these MACs to diversify the types of businesses engaging in the federal market.
  2. Regulatory: Require a five-year look-back for the purpose of Small Business Administration (SBA) size determination. Due to the long contract award process and significant size of task orders, small businesses can quickly outgrow their size standard without having the time and resources to invest in firm infrastructure. This change would allow businesses a smoother transition by changing the receipt calculation by using the lowest three of these preceding five years of receipts, to determine the average.
  3. Legislative: Deduct research and development (R&D) expenses and expenditures from total revenue for size determination. This recommendation supports the government’s initiative to stimulate innovation and allows companies to pursue and develop new products and processes, without undue penalty.

The execution of these proposals would set the record straight: small business owners should grow their business – and those that do should not be penalized for that growth but supported by our federal government. It’s time to end the mixed signals.

How Can My Unpopulated Small Business Joint Venture Get a Clearance?

When the SBA issued its final rule concerning its new Small Business Mentor Protégé Programs, it adopted a major change for 8(a) and small business joint ventures:  no more populated joint ventures. Instead, the rule provides that where a joint venture is formed as a separate legal entity, like a limited liability company, it may not have its own separate employees to perform contracts awarded to the joint venture.

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By Megan Connor, Partner PilieroMazz

For contractors well-versed in the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (“NISPOM”) and who otherwise pursue and perform cleared contracts, the SBA’s move away from populated joint ventures in favor of unpopulated joint ventures raises some eyebrows. A joint venture without any personnel of its own cannot obtain a facility clearance (“FCL”) because an FCL always depends on the personnel security clearance (“PCL”) of the company’s key management personnel, including the facility security officer (“FSO”). In other words, the only way a contractor receives an FCL is if it has cleared employees.So how, then, can a small business comply with the SBA’s regulations requirement for an unpopulated joint venture (if a separate legal entity) and the requirements of Defense Security Service and NISPOM?

By “populating” the joint venture with administrative personnel. This is expressly allowed under SBA’s regulations. While the SBA does not want separate legal entity joint ventures populated with direct labor, the regulations expressly allow a joint venture to have “its own separate employees to perform administrative functions.”  13 C.F.R. § 121.103(h). Thus, a joint venture may be populated with employees and still be considered an unpopulated joint venture so long as these employees are not performing the contracts awarded to the joint venture.

The administrative personnel employed by an unpopulated joint venture can be the individuals upon whom the joint venture’s FCL is based. For instance, the joint venture could employ a single management position, the FSO, and the joint venture’s FCL would be contingent on the FSO’s PCL. Although the NISPOM requires the FSO tobe an employee of the cleared entity, there is no requirement for the FSO to be a full-time employee, so the FSO could split his time as the FSO of the joint venture and as the FSO of one of the venturers. The FSO could not perform direct labor on the joint venture’s contracts, but could (and should) be performing administrative functions, like supervising the joint venture’s compliance with the NISPOM and maintaining the joint venture’s records in the Joint Personnel Adjudication System.

____________________________________________________________________________________________Megan Connor is a partner with PilieroMazza and focuses her practice in the areas of government contracts, small business administration programs, business and corporate law, and litigation.  She may be reached at mconnor@pilieromazza.com.

Entrepreneurs shine during National Small Business Week

By Linda McMahon, SBA Administrator

Through awards ceremonies, media interviews and community events, we honor entrepreneurs whose achievements stand out. As an entrepreneur myself, I know the hard work that goes in to starting and building a small business – efforts that don’t often get the attention they deserve.

Honorees in this week’ spotlight do not cast a shadow that dims the efforts of others; rather they serve as a beacon – to competitors, up-and-comers and communities as a whole. They show what is possible. They are innovators and problem solvelinda-mcmahon-high.jpgrs, creating products and services that are better, smarter or more efficient than what came before. They are risk takers. And through their success, they inspire others to dream and to create small businesses of their own.

Small businesses contribute so much to our communities and economy. They create two out of every three net new jobs in the private sector. More than half of all Americans either work for or own a small business. Entrepreneurs are not only making a living for themselves, they are making their neighborhoods vibrant places to live and work and contributing to our nation’s economic strength.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is so proud to have been a part of small businesses’ success for 65 years. Since 1953, the SBA has been supporting entrepreneurs with the tools they need to succeed. The Agency – through its headquarters in Washington, DC; its 68 district offices nationwide; and resources partners like Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, Veterans Business Opportunity Centers and SCORE chapters – serves entrepreneurs at every stage of their lifecycle. It guarantees loans for entrepreneurs who can’t get capital from other sources, mitigating a lender’s risk. It offers counseling on starting and scaling a business, from how to draft a business plan to how to export products overseas. It trains small businesses to compete for government contracts. And it helps those recovering from a declared disaster get back on their feet.

Whether they are starting up, expanding or getting through a tough time, the SBA is the nation’s only go-to resource for small business backed by the strength and resources of the federal government. It powers the American Dream. And the SBA is working to make that dream accessible to more Americans by modernizing its application processes, improving online resources, and streamlining how technology is used to deliver services more efficiently and effectively.

National Small Business Week honors entrepreneurs who have used these resources to make their lives and their communities better. And the SBA shines a light on their achievements, I hope it will illuminate the path for even more aspiring entrepreneurs following in their footsteps.


Linda McMahon serves as the 25th Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. As a member of President Trump’s cabinet, she advocates on behalf of the 30 million small businesses in America, which employ nearly half of all American workers and account for 56.8 million jobs.

 

April Policy Watch #HillUpdate: The House Has Been Busy Tackling IRS Reforms, Financial Rules, the Next NDAA & More

HSBC Chairman Chabot Urges Inclusion of Small Business Bills in FY19 NDAA

Last week before the House Committee on Armed Services, Chairman Steve Chabot of the House Small Business Committee urged members to incorporate a package of 13 bipartisan small business bills in the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. The bills include legislation addressing SBA loan programs and technical assistance programs such as Women Business Centers, small business lending, cybersecurity, government contracting, and other issues impacting small business.

Read a full accounting of bills included in the package can be found here.

Watch Chairman Chabot’s testimony.

Legislation to Reform & Modernize the IRS Makes it Out of House Ways & Means

The House Ways and Means Committee last week approved the passage of the Taxpayer First Act (H.R. 5445), legislation sponsored by Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and ranking member John Lewis (D-GA). The bill would improve the independent appeals process, taxpayer services and enforcement. It also updates the IRS and Tax Court structure.

Click here to learn more about the legislation and other recent bills relating to IRS reform passed out by the House Ways & Means Committee.

House Passes Bill to Ease Financial Regulations with Goal of Improving Lending

The House approved H.R. 4790, the Volcker Rule Regulatory Harmonization Act by a vote of 300-104. The legislation would exempt banks with total assets of $10 billion or less and comprised of 5% or less of trading assets and liabilities from the Volcker Rule. The rule prohibits banking agencies from engaging in proprietary trading or entering into certain relationships with hedge funds and private-equity funds. The bill would also grant exclusive rulemaking authority under the Volcker Rule to the Federal Reserve Board. The intent of the legislation is to alleviate the compliance burden on small banks, which would help improve capital markets and lending, especially to small business.

Read more

With Possible Trade War Looming, HSBC Holds hearing on the State of Trade for Small Business

The House Small Business Committee heard from a panel of business owners and experts on the state of international trade for small businesses. The hearing’s focus was the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) Grant Program and the federal government’s overall efforts to increase small business exports. However, with tariffs proposed by the administration and discussion of a possible trade war with China, witnesses highlighted how recent activity would impact their businesses and small business exporters at large.

Read submitted testimony or watch the full hearing here.

April Policy Update

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FY2018 Omnibus Spending Package Signed into Law

On March 23, President Donald Trump signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill for FY2018—10 percent higher than FY2017 due to the budget agreement reached last month by lawmakers.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) received $18 million less than in FY2017.  SBA received $247 million for entrepreneurial development grants including $130 million for Small Business Development Centers; $18 million for Women’s Business Centers; and $11.5 million for the SCORE program. SBA’s business loan program will have new authority to guarantee $29 billion in 7(a) loans.

For government contractors, passage of this bill means a compressed procurement and grant cycle. The new Fiscal Year started in October but has just now been funded. That means agencies have one quarter instead of four to procure goods and services.

Here is a chart of WIPP’s FY2018 appropriations requests and what was included in the FY2018 Omnibus bill signed by the president.

FY2018 Entrepreneurship Funding Update

Small Business Administration – Financial Services and General Government Appropriations

Program FY17 Enacted FY18 WIPP Requests  

FY18 Omnibus

Microloan Program:  Lending $44 million $44 million  

$36 million

Microloan Program:  TA $31 million $31 million  

$31 million

PRIME $5 million $10 million $5 million
Women’s Business Centers $18 million $21.75 million  

$18 million

SBA Office of Advocacy $9.22 million $9.3 million  

$9.12 million

 

Small Business 7(a) Lending Oversight Reform Act of 2018 Unanimously Approved in Both the House & Senate Small Business Committees.

Legislation (H.R.4743/ S.2283) to increase the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) oversight authority over the 7(a) loan program for the purpose of improving the efficiency and reach of the program, passed both the House and Senate Small Business Committees. The Small Business 7(a) Lending Oversight Reform Act of 2018 would:

  • Strengthen SBA’s Office of Credit Risk Management by outlining in statute the responsibilities of the office and the requirements of its director
  • Enhance SBA’s lender oversight review process, including increasing the office’s enforcement options
  • Require SBA to detail its oversight budget and perform a full risk analysis of the program on an annual basis
  • Strengthen SBA’s Credit Elsewhere Test by clarifying the factors that must be considered

Read the House Small Business Committee’s Press Release here.

Chabot Supports Bill to Ensure Small Contractors Get Paid Quickly

House Small Business Committee Chair Steve Chabot (R-OH) released a statement recently in support of Rep. Steve Knight’s (R-CA) bill, the Accelerated Payments for Small Businesses Act, encouraging federal agencies to make payments to small business prime contractors within 15 days of sending an invoice.

Read Chair Chabot’s statement here.

National Small Business Week Virtual Conference

SBA has partnered with the SCORE Association to offer a NSBW Virtual Conference which will take place May 1- May 3, between 12:30pm ET and 6:30pm ET each day. The conference will offer 12 educational webinars, mentoring sessions, networking opportunities and resources in a three-day event. You will hear from industry experts, such as Visa, Google, Chase, Constant Contact, Square and more. They will share insider tips on various aspects of online marketing, financing, customer service, cybersecurity among other topics.

Register for the NSBW Virtual Conference here.

SBA Office of Advocacy to Host a Regulatory Reform Roundtable and a NAFTA Outreach Meeting in Atlanta

Next week, the SBA Office of Advocacy will be hosting a Regulatory Reform Roundtable and a NAFTA Modernization Outreach meeting for small business owners in order to gain insight into which specific federal regulatory burdens present the biggest barriers to small business growth and get input on possible NAFTA changes.

Meeting will be held:

  • Tuesday, April 10, 2018: Regulatory Reform Roundtable at 8:30am with a special focus on environmental regulatory issues at 2pm
    • Location: GTRI Conference Center, 205 14th Street, NW, Atlanta, GA
  • Wednesday, April 11, 2018: NAFTA Modernization Outreach meeting at 9:00 a.m. for small business owners.
    • Location: Georgia Department of Economic Development, 75 5th Street Northwest, 10th floor, Atlanta, GA.

To register for these meetings, visit SBA’s website.

National Women’s Business Council Releases Reports on Crowdfunding

The National Women’s Business Council released two new research reports on success factors for women business owners access to small business finance, finding that the first 30 days of crowdfunding campaigns matter the most and personal stories play a vital role in reaching fundraising goals. The reports also showed that while it helps to have large network, the way you leverage that network to help you with funding your business is equally important to your success at raising money.

Read the press release and access the reports here.

WIPP Works in Washington: A Heavy Buying Season Ahead – Five Tips for Being Successful in the Federal Marketplace

For all women business owners who have secured, or are seeking federal contracts, the first order of business is remembering the incredible effort it took to get the Women-Owned Small Business Procurement Program in place. WIPP and thousands of women across the country pushed for this program and as a result, today women are awarded

Anne Sullivan

Anne Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

nearly $18 billion in contracts through the program. As part of that 13-year effort, I have had the privilege to gain insights on successful strategies.

Last month, the Department of Treasury held a women’s history month event organized by Lisa Jenkins, who heads the small business office and is an incredible advocate for women-owned businesses. I thought I would share my five tips for being successful in the federal marketplace I presented at the event. PS: If you do not know Lisa Jenkins, make it your business to do so.

Since the federal government just received its FY18 money, expect spending to be fast and furious until the end of the fiscal year—September 30. Think about the strategies you have in place to respond to a myriad of requests for information and Sources Sought notices. Remember to ask agencies to consider setting aside the contract for women-owned companies and familiarize yourself with the WOSB sole source rules.

FIVE TIPS

  1. Know more than the person you are meeting with.

Dig deep—read the Small Business part of the FAR (https://www.acquisition.gov/far/html/FARTOCP19.html) and all the government contracting articles/news. you can get your hands on. Look up WIPP’s Give Me Five http://www.giveme5.com program and take classes that are applicable to building your knowledge base. Look up the agency’s FY18 funding and understand their focus (Give Me Five: Follow the Money Webinar).

  1. Seek to establish relationships in unconventional ways—go to events where the person you are trying to meet is speaking and get creative about getting an introduction to them through your networks. Follow them on social media. Only ask for meetings when you have all your ducks in a row and you have a specific ask.
  2. Join organizations that work with agencies and become a leader. It is not enough to join an organization at the lowest level. The real benefit comes from being a leader. Organizations feature their leaders, give them opportunities to introduce speakers and assist their leaders in connections that are helpful in the federal contracting arena.
  3. Learn how to use the SBA set-aside programs, such as the WOSB procurement program and be prepared to educate agency contracting officers on the benefits of using the program. Don’t be offended that contracting officers don’t know your program—you can be the educator. That’s a good place to be.

Understand the budget process—it’s all public information. Know how your programs are funded. Look up the agency’s funding and understand their focus (Check out Give Me Five: Follow the Money Webinar). Although this can be complicated, understanding this process and using it to your advantage will give you a huge leg up on the competition.