WASHINGTON— On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship will vote on bipartisan legislation to eliminate barriers to federal contracting opportunities for small businesses. The bill, drafted by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee, and cosponsored by Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), improves the oversight of unbundling contracts for small firms, increases enforcement of protections for subcontractors, and expands opportunities for minority, women and service-disabled entrepreneurs.

“Our country is stronger when small businesses have the chance to compete for federal contracts because small firms help bring down the cost of services, spur job growth, and develop the innovations that boost our economy,” said Senator Kerry. “Our bill adds accountability and strengthens contracting programs as first steps to level the playing field for small firms, in particular those owned by minorities, women, and veterans.”

By law, 23 percent of federal contracting dollars are supposed to go to small businesses; however, this benchmark is not being met. According to Eagle Eye Publishers, the federal government spent more than $412 billion in 2006, yet only 20 percent went to small businesses, costing them at least $12 billion dollars. Additionally, the federal government fails to count many of the contracts as eligible for small business participation.

“As Ranking Member of the Senate Small Business Committee, I am dismayed by the myriad ways that government agencies have time and again egregiously failed to meet most of their small business statutory ‘goaling’ requirements,” said Senator Snowe. “This bipartisan legislation would enhance and improve opportunities for all small business contracting programs – including the HUBZone, small disadvantaged business, women-owned small business, and service-disabled veteran-owned small business programs. If ever there were a time to address equality and parity for small businesses in Federal contracting, that time is now.”

“I have co-sponsored this bill because it addresses many of the abuses that are rampant in the federal procurement system,” said Senator Cardin. “Specifically, it deals with contract bundling, imposes criminal penalties on large businesses that falsely certify they are small businesses, and streamlines the small business certification process. Small business is the economic engine that drives our nation, and it’s time that we put an end to the unfair practices that hurt small, minority and women-owned businesses.”

The Small Business Contracting Revitalization Act (S. 2300) addresses challenges faced by small businesses by:

  • Reducing contract bundling by improving oversight of bundling regulation compliance by the Small Business Administration(SBA);
  • Preventing misrepresentations in subcontracting by prime contractors by increasing oversight and establishing enforcement mechanisms;
  • Helping service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses gain government contract and subcontract opportunities by expanding the authority for sole-source awards;
  • Directing the SBA to implement the women-owned small business program – enacted into law in 2000 but which the Administration has failed to implement – within 90 days;
  • Extending the 8(a) contracting program through 2012 and improving it by:
    • Allowing the small disadvantaged business certifications issued by other agencies to be accepted by the SBA;
    • Adjusting for inflation the personal income and net worth requirements for 8(a) program participants; and
    • Prohibiting qualified retirement plans from being used by the SBA to determine an individual’s net worth.
  • Strengthening the government’s ability to enforce the size and status standards for small business certification.