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WIPP Works In Washington: What's Next?

Posted By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate, Wednesday, May 6, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, May 5, 2020
COVID-19 relief took the form of four bills passed by Congress in the last two months. All of this is centered around relief for workers and employers hit by COVID-19, including small business loan and forgiveness programs, aid to hospitals and money for test deployment, employer required sick leave, and direct payments to Americans. 
AnnSullivan
A staggering $2 trillion was spent in these four bills and the Federal Reserve Bank spent an estimated additional $4 trillion on relief. We learned the demand from small businesses for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster loans (EIDL) far exceeded available funding. Everyone is curious about the direction of future aid for obvious reasons. What’s going to be in the next bill or is there going to be a next bill? 

My best guess is that the next Congressional bill will be a hybrid of relief and recovery. Much is left to do on the relief side and refinement of the programs put in place by previous legislation. When programs are drafted in a hurry, unexpected issues arise that need to be addressed. Evidence is the number of guidance documents issued by the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Department of Treasury, and the IRS surrounding small business loan programs. For federal contractors, implementation of Section 3610 relief has generated extensive documentation. The next bill will most certainly contain changes to existing programs.

Is Congress going to deliver additional relief by providing additional funding for the PPP or EIDL programs? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suggested that Congress may slow down future relief, saying "until we can begin to open up the economy, we can’t spend enough money to solve the problem." Relief to state and localities has yet to materialize but is widely considered to be a major part of any future bill.

As governors start loosening restrictions on stay-at-home orders and industry starts to slowly reopen, the focus is slowly shifting toward economic recovery. Congressional leaders are looking at successful programs deployed during the Great Recession (2007-2009) that could be helpful during this pandemic. Another much talked about idea is a stimulus, such as a massive infrastructure program. This would not only cover shovel ready construction projects, but also broadband, telecommunications and technology infrastructure. 

Also bubbling up are tax deductions and credits for businesses who will need relief for many months to come. Businesses are asking for special liability restrictions due to COVID-19 in order to feel comfortable bringing employees back to work and opening their doors to consumers. The Senate has signaled this as a priority, but their House counterparts are not so sure. 

Lastly, the federal marketplace offers a tremendous opportunity for small business recovery, but the rules need to change to allow more dollars to flow to these businesses.

The “What’s Next” list is overwhelming because the need is so great. Our advocacy team is dedicated to ensuring women business owners have a voice in all of these deliberations. That’s the mission of WIPP – we intend on keeping it that way.

Tags:  Advocacy  COVID-19  legislation 

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Advocacy Update: Third COVID-19 Relief Bill

Posted By Elizabeth Sullivan, WIPP Advocacy Team, Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Senate passed the third bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill H.R. 748: Coronavirus aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act last night. The House is expected to vote on the legislation tomorrow. WIPP Members should pay attention to an important federal contracting provision and stay tuned for advocacy action steps. 


Legislation breakdowns from Committees:

Additional resources from the Advocacy Team:

Tags:  Advocacy  COVID-19  federal contracting  legislation 

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WIPP Advocacy Roundup - February 2020

Posted By WIPP Advocacy Team, Wednesday, February 26, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, February 25, 2020

WIPP-Supported Women’s History Museum Bill Passed the House

 

The Smithsonian Women's History Museum Act (H.R. 1980) passed the House and is now headed to the Senate. The bill establishes a council that will make recommendations to the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Museum on the planning, design, and construction of the museum. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY); Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA); Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). Read WIPP’s March 2018 letter of support for the bill


Meeting with New SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza


Team WIPP Meets Administrator CarranzaOn Wednesday, February 19, WIPP President & CEO Candace Waterman and WIPP Chief Advocate Ann Sullivan met with new SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza. The Administrator knows WIPP’s work from her previous position at the Deputy SBA Administrator under the President George W. Bush’s administration. It was great to see an old friend and update her on our policy priorities. We were happy to hear that women entrepreneurs are a priority of Administrator Carranza. 

Participating in GSA’s Small Business Roundtable with the Federal Acquisition Service

 

Candace Waterman, Ann Sullivan and WIPP Advocacy Team member Elizabeth Sullivan were invited to participate in a roundtable held on Wednesday, February 19 at GSA with the Administrator Emily Murphy to discuss small business participation in Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) and new cybersecurity requirements. WIPP raised the issue of WOSB participation in GWACs and urged Administrator Murphy to consider including WOSBs in any new GWACs.  


WIPP Speaks on Behalf of Women Entrepreneurs at 2020 Small Business Forum Meeting

 

In January, WIPP attended the 2020 Small Business Forum Meeting to discuss the challenges of using the section § 199A deduction. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 included the new Internal Revenue Code § 199A to bring some parity for pass-through entities (S-Corps, LLCs, partnerships).

 

 WIPP advocated for the 20% deduction now afforded to pass-through entities during the 2017 tax reform and spoke at the roundtable, calling for the deduction to be extended to all pass-through entities, not just those in specific industries. 


Five-Year Lookback Not Yet Allowed in SAM

 

WIPP-advocated for the Small Business Extension Act, a change allowing WOSBs to utilize a five-year revenue average for the purposes of size determination, which went into effect in January 2020. However, this change has not yet been reflected in the System for Award Management (SAM). WOSBs have found that when renewing their size status in SAM.gov, the only option is to input a three-year average.

 

 We advise WOSBs seeking to re-certify size status under the new five-year rule to work with legal counsel to document their size until SAM is updated and asking for the ability to change to a five-year revenue average when SAM is updated. 

Tags:  Advocacy  GSA  legislation  regulatory  SBA  taxes 

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Four Steps Congress Should Take to Help WOSBs in the FY2021 NDAA

Posted By Elizabeth Sullivan, WIPP Advocacy Team, Wednesday, February 5, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, February 4, 2020

If you participate in the monthly WIPP Policy Update webinars, you will likely hear us reference the National Defense Authorization Act, or more lovingly known as the “NDAA.” As it remains one of the last “must pass” bills – due to the Constitutional requirement that Congress provides for a common defense – each year presents an opportunity to advocate for changes that will benefit women-owned businesses. So, here is what we think should be included this year: 

Elizabeth Sullivan
  1. Expand investment in women- and minority-owned companies.
    Currently, women-owned businesses receive around 2.8% of all venture dollars. Due to WIPP’s championship of this issue, Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced the Women and Minority Equity Investment Act of 2019 (S. 1981), which would allow women-owned contracting firms to take investment by women-owned equity firms and still meet the “51% unconditionally owned and controlled” standard set by SBA to participate in the WOSB/EDWOSB program. Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL) introduced an identical bill in the House (H.R. 3633). The same barriers apply to minority-owned businesses. These bills allow minority-owned federal contracting firms to take investment by minority-owned equity firms.

    This legislation is groundbreaking on both sides of the equation. It opens up a path for investment in women-owned businesses who are government contractors, as well as strengthens women investors. Women in investment firms tell us that this change in the law would strengthen their ability to secure greater equity positions within their companies and women-owned companies looking for investment will be incentivized to seek out women-owned investment firms. The same holds true for minority investments under this legislation.

  2. Increase the share of contracts awarded to small businesses


    WIPP fought and won sole source authority for the WOSB program in 2015—gaining parity with other federal contracting programs. While the fight has changed in 2019, the drumbeat is the same: parity. Currently, the sole source dollar limits for WOSBs are $4 million and $6.5 million (manufacturing) over the life of the contract. While this might sound like a lot of money, in the $550 billion federal marketplace, $4 million over 5 years is small potatoes. We have also heard from WOSBs that even though agencies are interested in awarding sole source contracts to them, these dollar limits are too small.

    A shift in government buying calls for a shift in rules for sole source contracts. As government buying continues to trend toward buying through large vehicles and moving away from direct contracts, the ability for small companies to win sole source awards is more crucial than ever. Increasing the award amounts for sole source contracts is extremely beneficial to the small business contracting community, however, it is equally as important to streamline and simplify rules for awarding these contracts. It is not uncommon to hear from small contractors that are told over and over again by the federal workforce the same thing – awarding a sole source contract is too confusing and/or time consuming. 

    WIPP supported H.R. 190, which passed the House and gives all small businesses including WOSBs greater opportunities through sole source contracting. This bill raises the dollar amounts for sole source contracts to $4 million and $7 million to be awarded each year, instead of over the life of the contract. A proposal in the Senate would also raise these thresholds to $8 and $10 million each year. 

    With respect to simplification, WOSBs, HUBZones and SDVOSBs require that a contracting officer must justify through market research that not two or more offers at a reasonable price are expected. The contracting community has interpreted this as “you are the only company in the world that performs this work,” leading to exceedingly few sole source awards. While the missions of these programs are all different, one thing is crystal clear – putting these contracting programs on equal footing with respect to this rule would ease the burden for the federal government and the businesses trying to meet its agencies missions. 

  3. Give small businesses more runway.
    You may be thinking you have heard this one before. That’s because a significant WIPP-supported legislative victory was achieved in 2018, giving small firms more “runway” to transition out of the small business set aside program and into full and open competition. The law allows businesses to average revenues over 5 years rather than the previous three years for purposes of determining size standards. In fact, the law finally went into effect earlier this month. Despite the expanded time this gives many small contractors, there are some that are still left in the lurch – businesses whose work falls under employee-based NAICS

    These companies face the same challenges – bumping out of their size standards and struggling to compete with billion-dollar companies in the full and open marketplace. Therefore, increasing the length of determination for industries measured based on annual average employees would give small companies a little more runway to succeed when they become midsize companies. Using a five-year standard for all industries this would create parity for small businesses in every industry and promote sustainable growth of small businesses.
  4. Share best practices for contracting with small businesses.

    WOSBs continue to find that agencies are reluctant to use small business programs. Recognizing this challenge, WIPP worked with the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to introduce The Promoting Rigorous and Innovative Cost Efficiencies for Federal Procurement and Acquisitions (PRICE) Act of 2019 (S. 3038), which addresses agency utilization of small businesses in the federal marketplace.

    Introduced by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Joni Ernst (R-IA), this bipartisan bill requires the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to convene the existing Chief Acquisition Officers Council (CAOC) to identify and disseminate best practices in non-defense small business contracting in the federal government. The PRICE Act would positively impact the way in which this valuable information is gathered and shared across the federal government, as well as provide increased opportunities for small businesses by educating the acquisition workforce on best practices for using small business programs. 


As we promote these changes, look for action alerts and other ways to engage from our team. Since it is an election year, there will be limited opportunity to advance this legislation – all the more reason why the NDAA is so important. These four changes would go a long way to help the government meet its 5% goal of contract awards to women-owned companies.

 

 

Tags:  Advocacy  Congress  legislation  regulatory 

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Advocacy Update: Legislation Introduced to Encourage Agencies to Use Small Businesses

Posted By Advocacy Team, Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The WIPP-supported bill, The Promoting Rigorous and Innovative Cost Efficiencies for Federal Procurement and Acquisitions (PRICE) Act of 2019 (S. 3038)was introduced this week, which addresses agency utilization of small businesses in the federal marketplace. We are thrilled to see this bill introduced by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) and will continue to advocate for its passage. 

 

Read WIPP’s combined letter of support for the bill.


As many small businesses find that agencies continue to be reluctant to use small business programs, this bipartisan bill addresses this prevailing issue by requiring the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to convene the existing Chief Acquisition Officers Council (CAOC) to identify and disseminate best practices in non-defense small business contracting in the federal government. The CAOC would also be required to solicit public input and engage with governmental and nongovernmental experts.

The PRICE Act will positively impact the way in which this valuable information is gathered and shared with the public and across the federal government, as well as provide increased opportunities for small businesses by educating the acquisition workforce on best practices for using small business programs.

 

 

Tags:  Advocacy  federal contracting  Federal Procurement  Federal Procurement Opportunities  legislation 

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WIPP Driving Legislation

Posted By WIPP Advocacy Team, Thursday, May 2, 2019

Two recent bills introduced in the House and Senate, respectively, incorporate WIPP’s recommendations for increasing access to capital and creating parity for women-owned small businesses:

 

  • Making the Microloan Program More Effective: Elimination of the SBA Microloan Program’s 1/55th rule is a top WIPP priority, and the Microloan Program Enhancement Act (S. 996) would accomplish that. Women consume 48.7% of loans through the Program, which assists borrowers obtaining loans under $50,000. Read our letter of support.
  • Requiring 15-Day Payment to Small Federal Contractors: Reinstating the accelerated payments policy for small contractors and subcontractors that expired in 2017, House Small Business Committee Members introduced the Accelerated Payments for Small Businesses Act (H.R. 2332). The bill sets a goal for federal agencies to pay both small prime contractors and large primes with small subcontractors within 15 days.

Tags:  Advocacy  legislation 

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What Is "NDAA" and Why Do I Keep Hearing About It?

Posted By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate, Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Around this time of year, you will start to see communications from the WIPP Advocacy Team around getting legislation important to women-owned businesses “into the NDAA.” If you have been around long enough, you have probably heard me decode this legislative strategy. WIPP has used this vehicle to pass a number of bills into law – including sole source authority for WOSBs in the FY2015 NDAA. So, the question is, how can legislation about small business wind up in something authorizing defense? Let’s start with a little history of the Act.
AnnSullivan
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is one of the last “must pass” pieces of legislation left in Congress. Since the Constitution requires that Congress provides for a common defense, this bill is considered to be “must pass.” Therefore, every year for the past 58 years, Congress has passed the NDAA. Not to be confused with defense appropriations, with “defense” in the title, the purpose of the massive bill is to authorize defense policies and programs under which the funding levels are set. 

Even though the bill is “must pass,” that does not necessarily mean it must pass on time. In 33 years, the NDAA has been passed only three times before the start of the new fiscal year. However, one of the three times was last year’s FY2019 NDAA. The other two years the NDAA was signed on time were FY1997 and FY1978. ***Note: the calendar year the bill is passed and the fiscal year for the NDAA do not align. Congress is always working on it for the next fiscal year; therefore, Congress is currently working on the FY2020 NDAA. 

So where does small business enter the mix? The bill falls under the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committees in both the House and Senate, not the Small Business Committees. Each year, both sides of Congress craft their own version of the NDAA to pass in their respective chambers. Next, they come together with negotiators and hammer out the differences. Since this is not under Small Business Committee jurisdiction, adding small business provisions is a more internal process. Meaning, you won’t see us tell you about a public hearing to review proposed small business provisions, instead the House and Senate Small Business Committees work with the Armed Services Committee Members to include relevant small business provisions. The NDAA has not always had small business changes. In recent years, small business advocates in Congress realized that a stated U.S. national security policy—the need for a strong industrial base— justifies inclusion of small business legislation. The NDAA quickly became the go-to legislation for procurement changes to small business programs.

A prime candidate for inclusion this year is a bill that would help bring parity to sole source authority for small businesses, especially WOSBs/EDWOSBs. The Expanding Opportunities for Small Businesses Act of 2019 (H.R. 190) would increase sole source contracts for women, veterans, and HUBZones at the amounts of $4 million and $7 million each year, instead of the life of the contract. It also raises the sole source dollar threshold for construction and manufacturing from $6.5 to $7 million. This legislation passed the House and is ready for Senate action. With category management shifting the way the government buys, contracting officers will have a bigger incentive to award work to small businesses if this bill passes. It’s time to mobilize around this huge opportunity for women-owned small businesses. The NDAA might just be the mechanism to get it done. 

Tags:  Advocacy  legislation  policy 

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