2019-03-08 20:03:45

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) on March 6 sponsored a bipartisan bill that would put small businesses owned by women and service-disabled veterans on a level playing field when competing for certain contracts

“Women- and veteran-owned small businesses should be afforded the same contracting opportunities as businesses certified under other programs,” Sen. Ernst said on Wednesday. “This bipartisan measure is a sensible and simple fix to help ensure all of Iowa’s small business owners get a fair shot to compete and succeed.”

The Expanding Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses Act, S. 673, cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), would amend the Small Business Act to eliminate the inclusion of option years in the award price for sole-source contracts, among other purposes, according to the congressional record summary.

“Iowa is the proud home to more than 200 women-owned small businesses and more than 50 small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans,” said Sen. Ernst. “Starting and operating a small business is an exciting and rewarding experience, but it comes with risk.”

Currently, the Small Business Act permits certified small businesses to be awarded sole-source contracts, which ensure they’re not forced out of opportunities by larger multiple-award contracts that may be more difficult for them to win, according to the senator’s statement.

However, small businesses certified under the 8(a) Business Development and HUBZone programs, for example, may receive sole-source contracts of up to $7 million for manufacturing, while women-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses are limited to contracts of up to $6.5 million, the statement says.

If enacted, S. 673 would eliminate that contract amount discrepancy and would set the contract manufacturing threshold at $7 million across the board so any small businesses, regardless of its program certification, could have access to the same threshold of benefits in sole-source contracting, Sen. Ernst said. 

Additionally, the proposed measure would provide more authority to the Small Business Administration (SBA) to identify and deter fraud and abuse in the contracting process, she said, by improving SBA oversight of the eligibility process.

“If we want to help main street, we need to make it easier for small businesses to expand their business and hire new workers,” Sen. Duckworth said. “This bill will expand opportunities for these small businesses and encourage economic growth.”

S. 673 has been referred to the U.S. Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee for consideration.

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