The Small Business Runway Extension Act of 2018 (H.R. 6330), authored by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, passed on December 6th and has now been signed by the President.
As explained in this press release, this legislation (also know as the “5-year look back”) ensures that small business size standards are calculated using average annual receipts from the previous five years, instead of the previous three. This change will significantly reduce the impact of years wherein businesses experience unexpectedly rapid growth, often causing them to prematurely lose their small business status.
While Tonya pointed out that this bill doesn’t help most mid-tiers, it is an incremental start at addressing some of the problems that a growing firm faces as they begin to grow beyond small.
She also passed along a note of thanks from Barbara Ashe, Executive Vice President of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, who thanked MTA for our support as a Coalition Partner in the Midsize Initiative. Ms. Ashe wrote: “Not only does this legislative change open the door to other initiatives for companies bumping up against small business standards, we also successfully changed the term from ‘mid-tier’ to ‘midsize businesses’ in an effort to clarify the businesses we are seeking to assist.”
On January 24, 2018, a final General Services Acquisition Regulation (GSAR) rule was issued that incorporates order-level materials (OLMs) into the Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program. On selected schedules, agencies can now acquire not just the products and services they’ve come to rely on from GSA, but also the associated items required to make use of them at the order level.
From GSA: “OLMs are supplies and/or services acquired in direct support of an individual task or delivery order placed against a Schedule contract or BPA. OLM pricing is not established at the Schedule contract or BPA level, but at the order level. Since OLMs are identified and acquired at the order level, the ordering contracting officer (OCO) is responsible for making a fair and reasonable price determination for all OLMs.
OLMs are procured under a special ordering procedure that simplifies the process for acquiring supplies and services necessary to support individual task or delivery orders placed against a Schedule contract or BPA. Using this new procedure, ancillary supplies and services not known at the time of the Schedule award may be included and priced at the order level.”
So what are the new benefits of this policy, and why should you care?
- OLMs increase the flexibility of contracts using the various GSA Schedules, especially the ones that focus on services, to provide a total solution to meet the actual customer requirements.
- OLMs reduce customer agency procurement/administrative costs and makes leveraging GSA Schedules that much easier – of course GSA likes this because they get the order through the MAS, along with any associated fees (the downside is that the company gets OLM “revenue,” which generally is just a pass-through fee, not a profit margin, and therefore is using up revenue).
- Contracting officers are happy because it reduces contract duplication by eliminating the need to set up new commercial IDIQs and/or open market procurements for ODCs (“Other Direct Costs”).
- OLMs potentially eliminate the need for Government Furnished Equipment (GFE), and anything that reduces the burden on the customer/contracting officer to track things is HIGHLY desirable.
- Contracting officers like the fact that MAS terms and conditions apply to OLMs, which ensures customer buys are compliant with FAR and other guidelines.
As a contractor, how do you include OLMs under a Schedule order?
The special ordering procedures are contained in General Services Administration Acquisition Regulation (GSAR) clause 552.538-82 Special Ordering Procedures for the Acquisition of Order-Level Materials, which may be incorporated into contracts under OLM-authorized Schedules. This clause, along with a dedicated Special Item Number (SIN) for Order-Level Materials, allows ordering activities to include OLMs in Schedule orders.
It is important to remember:
- Prices for OLMs are not established in the Schedule contract or BPA.
- OLMs are established and acquired at the order level, and the ordering activity contracting officer is responsible for making the determination that prices for all OLMs are fair and reasonable.
- OLM procedures may be used to purchase OLM products or services to support delivery orders (products) or task orders (services) under authorized GSA Schedules.
- OLMs may be added to any order-type, i.e. Firm Fixed-Price, Time & Materials (T&M), or Labor Hour. However, the OLM CLIN (contract line item number) must be T&M, but it can be the only T&M CLIN on the order. i.e., OLMs may be added to a Firm Fixed-Price order, but the OLM CLIN itself must be T&M.
Current Authorized OLM Schedules
- 00CORP – Professional Services Schedule
- 03FAC – Facilities Maintenance and Management
- 56 – Buildings And Building Materials / Industrial Services and Supplies
- 70 – Information Technology
- 71 – Furniture
- 84 – Security, Fire, & Law Enforcement
- 738X – Human Capital Management and Administrative Support Services
A GSA OLM Ordering Guide is coming soon. In the meantime, check out these resources:
- Training: Understanding Order-Level Materials (OLMs) [PDF – 248 KB]
- Training: Order-Level Materials – Vendor Webinar [PDF – 3 MB]
- Order-Level Materials SIN Description [PDF – 50 KB]
- Summary of Support Item Types for GSA Schedules Program Orders [PDF – 102 KB]
- Order-Level Materials FAQs #1 (April 25, 2018) [PDF – 120 KB]
- Order-Level Materials FAQs # 2 (August 8, 2018) [PDF – 112 KB]
- Download OLM training for federal agency customers and industry partners
This bill, which applies only to the Department of Defense, will amend section 3903 of title 31, United States Code, to establish accelerated payments applicable to contracts with certain small business concerns. This bill would require the government to establish a goal of paying all small business contractors within 15 days of receiving a proper invoice. The bill also establishes a similar goal for government contractors that have small business sub-contractors.
This bill is a win-win-win for small businesses, taxpayers, and the community.
For small businesses: “Small business contractors rely on a consistent and reliable flow of income in order to keep their operations running smoothly. The Accelerated Payments for Small Businesses Act will help ensure these businesses receive their payments in a timely and accountable manner. This consistency will enable businesses to focus on improving their services and expanding production.” – Representative Steve Knight (R-CA)
“The Accelerated Payments for Small Businesses Act [will] ensure that all transactions among small business contractors are treated with the respect and equity they deserve. Making this commitment will yield a tremendous return further incorporating small businesses including those that are women-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned, and HUBZone contractors.” – Representative Adriano Espaillat (D-NY)
For the taxpayers: “[This bill means that] small business prime contractors and prime contractors that subcontract with small businesses can continue to do business and not pass on any unnecessary costs to the taxpayer” – House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH)
For the community: “For small companies, payment delays can mean cash flow problems, constraining their expansion and slowing job growth. By accelerating payments to small companies, this legislation will help small contractors meet payroll, reinvest in their operations and create good paying jobs along the way.” – House Small Business Committee Ranking Member Nydia Velázquez (D-NY)
It also affects a company having the resources in time to pay subcontractors and even our 1099 consultants and SMEs, increasingly used in this rapidly innovating economy. We’ve talked in other venues about financing options, but anything which reduces the cost of credit and makes payments better, also saves money for the contractor.
This is a guest post by Cy Alba of PilieroMazza PLLC.
With proposals costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and many IDIQs having 50 or more awardees, it can easily happen that some contractors who win a spot on a contract are unable to capitalize on it and simply stop trying to capture task orders. Whether it was because the initial win was based on sheer luck or perhaps because of a tragic, unforeseeable change in circumstances, making it impossible to bid or even keep the company doors open, a contractor may find itself with a shiny new license to hunt, but without the proper tools to successfully compete for and win the actual task orders.
After failing to win any work for usually a year or more, contractors in situations like this may just be looking to recoup the bid and proposal costs or salvage the win. Often, they look to sell their zombie contracts to a more viable candidate. In the past, this was not too difficult, but in recent years, even months, it has become a harder and harder “sell.”
First, it has always been true, yet not fully understood by many, that the sale of a federal contract is prohibited. However, this has always been more of a technical or legal truth than reality. Now, however, agencies have started to question more and more transactions during the novation process, especially in cases where IDIQ contracts without ongoing task orders are sold to other contractors. At some agencies, but particularly GSA, contracting officers are questioning whether a transaction truly includes “all assets needed to perform the contract,” as required by FAR Part 42, or whether transactions are an improper sale of a federal contract.
Many contractors come back with something along the lines of “this is a services contract, there are no assets, just people.” However there are two issues with that statement: (1) it inaccurately admits the improper sale of a federal contract and (2) it ignores the fact that many tangible and intangible assets exist, even when a “naked” IDIQ contract is transferred. Despite what some inside and outside of the government may believe, assets such as proposals, bid strategies, and marketing plans all have real value. Indeed, the proposals themselves for these contracts may have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to prepare.
Given these facts and recent experience, we recommend that contractors carefully review all possible tangible and intangible assets that are part of a transaction, value each item, and then include them on at least the buyer’s post-transaction balance sheets, if not the seller’s pre-transaction balance sheets when possible, to show the agency the factual reality that there are valuable assets changing hands.
Lastly, we have also seen agencies use purchase terms against contractors. Particularly, terms whereby the seller retains workshare have been used as evidence that (1) the buyer is not capable of performing the work and that (2) not all assets needed to perform the work were transferred. While the existence of a workshare guarantee is evidence of neither, it has not stopped contracting officers from making such conclusions. Thus, given these new interpretations coming out of various agencies, we recommend carefully crafting such provisions going forward and giving full explanations in the novation package cover letter.
While the government enjoys a broad level of discretion when reviewing novations so they are never guaranteed, focusing on these and similar issues can help resolve the government’s concerns as to improper sales of federal contracts. In the past year or so, we have seen a major paradigm shift amongst a number of federal agencies. Thus, if you are buying or selling “naked” IDIQ vehicles, be prepared for a fight on the novation front, regardless of how well crafted the purchase agreement—some agencies will use the smallest excuse to reject a novation as not being in the best interests of the government when, by any reasonable account, it absolutely is.
This post originally appeared on the PilieroMazza blog at https://www.pilieromazza.com/avoiding-flat-tires-when-acquiring-idiq-contract-vehicles and was reprinted with permission.
The SBIC program is an investment program with a Small Business Administration (SBA) guarantee that increases access to capital for high-growth, start-up businesses.
This provision in the NDAA, H.R. 2364, amends the Small Business Investment Act of 1958 to increase from 5% to 15% of its capital and surplus, the amount a national bank, a member bank of the Federal Reserve System, a nonmember insured bank (to the extent permitted under applicable state law), or a federal savings association may invest in one or more small business investment companies (SBICs), or in any entity established to invest solely in SBICs. The increase is subject to the approval of the appropriate federal banking agency.
The bill will assist small business in obtaining venture capital and private equity (source). Anything we can do to stimulate the flow of more investment from normal capital flows, like banks and chartered SBICs, is definitely a good thing for small businesses. And as you know, that’s the engine of growth that we follow in this blog.
While this may seem a small thing, these SBICs are major players in the growth and financing of small businesses across the country and in “main street” America. And the good news is this is one of those drafted regulations that can be adjusted fairly easily and produce substantial results. Across the board, we’ve actually tripled the funding available for these SBIC entities.
H.R. 2763 – The Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Improvements ActsPosted: December 5, 2018
One of the things we’re seeing a lot of in the Federal sector right now is an emphasis on innovation and on finding new ways to do things. So, it’s not surprising that the 2018 NDAA addressed this in part.
This provision in the NDAA amends the Small Business Act to require:
• the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) annual report on the Small Business Information and Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs to be submitted by December 31, and
• each Federal agency required to establish an SBIR program to submit its annual report on such program by March 30.
H.R. 2763, the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Improvements Act requires (current law authorizes) the Department of Defense (DOD), for any contract under the Commercial Readiness Program with a value of at least $100 million, to:
• establish goals for the transition of Phase III technologies in subcontracting plans, and
• require a prime contractor to report the number and dollar amount of contacts entered into for Phase III SBIR or STTR projects.
The NDAA also authorizes all agencies participating in the SBIR program, during FY2018-FY2022, to provide SBIR Phase II awards for a project to a small business concern without regard to whether such concern was provided a Phase I award for such project.
This is important because the funding now can go to organizations, especially small businesses. This is a new proviso and gives agencies far more flexibility in awarding innovative technologies even a direct Phase II award.
The provision changes the temporary pilot program that a covered agency may establish for the allocation of SBIR and STTR program funds for awards for technology development, testing, evaluation, and commercialization assistance for SBIR and STTR phase II technologies, or to support the progress of research, research and development, and commercialization conducted under such programs to phase III, to a permanent Civilian Agency Commercialization Readiness Program.
It also extends until September 30, 2022, the deadline until which the SBA shall allow each agency required to conduct an SBIR program to use not more than 3% of program funds for administrative, oversight, and contract processing costs.
This provision also calls for greater transparency from the Small Business Administration (SBA) on the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.
The voters didn’t quite create a blue wave, although the numbers moving from Republican to Democrat have definitely made the House a very blue-ish territory. Of course the Democrats aren’t any more monolithic than the Republicans were, and pressure from the Democratic left wing, especially leading up to a presidential election, may create interesting reading in the Washington, D.C. bubble.
But what will it mean for us as Federal contractors?
One possibility is that we’ll keep on avoiding the “continuing resolutions” – the last two years we’ve had full budgets and this year we got that in before the new FY started, for the first time in a decade. I’m hoping that we can continue down this path, and give the Federal budget makers and the folks who divide it up and authorize spending, the time to get it done.
I don’t know about your company, but mine has been responding to RFIs and RFPs in the 1st FY quarter like the floodgates have opened, and that’s a good thing, because awards will come in time to actually enjoy the spending for most of a full year.
Another possibility is that we’ll return to those continuing resolutions – this will be bad, but not catastrophic, as solid budgets are in place from the past two years that can be used to move forward.
The thing I fear the most is that there will be paralysis, as the two sides don’t really put running the country first, and will allow the budgets to be taken hostage by the political process. This would be a bad thing, and I certainly hope we’re not headed back there.
Happy Thanksgiving, happy holidays, and we’ll see what the New Year brings.
Amends the Small Business Act to provide prospective construction contractors with information about an agency’s policies on the administration of change orders to allow such contractors to make informed business decisions regarding the pricing of bids or proposals. This legislation is meant “to help businesses plan by increasing transparency on federal construction projects.”
While this seems simple, be aware that since there’s a LOT of construction work done for the Federal Government, this bill really adds to the potential for success by small businesses.
A change order is a document signed by both contractor and customer, and is used to record an amendment to your original construction contract. It usually contains:
• A revised scope of work (usually an addition to the original agreement)
• Pricing for the new work
• Additional modifications, e.g., an extended delivery schedule to accommodate new scope of work
We know that change orders happen all the time, and we want to be sure that small businesses which may not be able to wait or retool, can also continue to work and be successful in this field.
“Many times, small contractors are already cash strapped, U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), chairman of the U.S. House Small Business Committee noted, so major construction changes that result in delayed payments can put them out of business. ‘H.R. 4754 safeguards these contractors and requires agencies to publish their change order process up front, in their solicitations, so they have all of the information they need that can affect their bottom line,’ he said.” (Source)
We don’t write as often about construction projects in this blog; we write about services because that is what we know. But the reality is, a LOT of money is spent on construction so take heed, small businesses, this means YOU.
This bill amends the Small Business Investment Act of 1958 to increase the maximum amount of outstanding leverage (i.e., borrowing power) made available to any licensed small business investment company from $150 million to $175 million. This bill was signed into law on June 21, 2018.
According to a press release from the Small Business Investor Alliance (SBIA), “Small Business Investment Companies (SBICs) are highly regulated private equity funds that invest exclusively in domestic small businesses. Created in 1958, the small businesses backed by SBICs have created 3 million new jobs and supported an additional 6.5 million jobs, according to a recent Library of Congress study.
The individual fund limit was last raised in 2009 to $150 million; the current push to $175 million keeps pace with inflation and increases the amount of capital fund managers can deploy to small businesses nationwide.”
While this may not seem like much, remember that many of the small businesses that are being invested in by these funds are fairly small, and the investments are correspondingly small. Also, it is worth remembering that these SBICs are not singular companies, but multiple entities that are available for small business investment start-up capital.
This is a case of Congress remembering that small businesses are the engine of job growth, and although larger businesses create numbers, this is how the economy grows.
If you’re looking for investment capital, particularly if your business model seeks outside capital, these SBICs are a good alternative to private equity or even outside investors.
The SBA’s Microloan Program is designed to provide small amounts of capital across a broad spectrum of small businesses mostly owned by low-income individuals. Think of businesses that can be started for a 25-50k sum, and this is where the SBA gets the lending authority, as those borrowers may have less collateral.
H.R. 2056 amends the Small Business Act to increase from $5 million to $6 million the total amount of loans outstanding and committed to any particular intermediary (excluding outstanding grants) from the SBA business loan and investment fund for the remaining years of the intermediary’s participation in the program.
There is some complicated terminology in this aspect, but basically an intermediary is a lending agency (like a bank). So the amount each lending intermediary can have outstanding is increased, which allows for more loans. Yay! More loans means more businesses start up.
SBA-designated microloan intermediary lenders may expend up to 50% (currently, 25%) of the intensive marketing, management, and technical assistance grant funds they receive from the SBA to provide information and technical assistance to small business concerns that are their prospective borrowers.
This provision allows funds to be set aside for essential help and consulting to these borrowers in cases where they need assistance getting started with basics like marketing, management, or technical assistance. Yay again, because this allows for more recipients to get more assistance, and that’s always a good thing.
The SBA shall:
- compare the operations of a representative sample of eligible intermediaries that participate in the microloan program and of eligible intermediaries that do not,
- study the reasons why the latter do not participate,
- recommend how to encourage increased participation by intermediaries in the microloan program, and
- recommend how to decrease the associated costs for intermediary participation.
The Government Accountability Office shall evaluate:
- SBA oversight of the microloan program, including oversight of participating intermediaries; and
- the specific processes the SBA uses to ensure program compliance by participating intermediaries and overall microloan program performance.
These two sections basically set up studies (this is a very typical action in the world of the NDAA). The SBA shall study what’s working and some things that Congress felt might not be working, and the GAO shall study the SBA’s processes. These are good things, as long as the studies get done and published. There are no deadlines or due dates here, something I wish would get added in more often.
This may not seem like much, but this is the engine of people leaving low-income situations by starting up their own businesses. YAY – more and more good!