On December 27, 2020, the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act opened up the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) to additional organizations and authorized a second draw of PPP loans.  The U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) has issued guidance on changes to the original Program and new second draw loans, and the Program has been partially reopened for both first and second draw loans as of January 13, 2021.  Loans will initially only be available through community financial institutions, but SBA has indicated that additional lenders will once again be able to participate in the Program on January 15, 2021, with a full reopening scheduled for January 19, 2021.

Similar to the Program’s original rollout, a number of questions remain with respect to SBA’s implementation of the Act.  SBA is also delaying guidance on changes to loan forgiveness, which may once again place borrowers in the position of taking out loans without knowing whether they will be fully forgiven.  However, SBA has now been managing the Program for almost ten months, and borrowers will hopefully not be subject to the same level of policy shifts and reversals that was experienced during the Program’s original rollout.

The Act makes first and second draw loans available until March 31, 2021, but there is a good chance that all available funds will be allocated before that date.


Continue Reading Paycheck Protection Program Expands and Offers Opportunity for Second Draw Loans

The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (the “Flexibility Act”) was signed into law on June 5, revising a number of key requirements for loan forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”).  The Program has provided support to a number of organizations negatively impacted by COVID-19 in the form of loans that can be forgiven if used for certain eligible expenses.

The Flexibility Act extends the period in which organizations can incur or pay for such expenditures and allows employers to avoid reductions in forgiveness amounts when they are unable to (i) rehire qualified employees or (ii) maintain prior employment levels due to operational changes resulting from the pandemic.  The Act also reduces the amount of eligible expenditures that must be spent on payroll costs when seeking forgiveness from 75 to 60 percent.

Yet, as with most aspects of the Program to date, a number of outstanding questions remain regarding how the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) intends to implement these changes, particularly with respect to potential reductions in forgiveness amounts.  The SBA has consistently deviated from the statutory framework that initially established PPP loans, so it would not be surprising if Congress’s revisions to the Program lead to additional unexpected changes at the regulatory level in the coming weeks.


Continue Reading Congress Increases Flexibility for Forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program, yet Uncertainty about Implementation Remains

A recently proposed rule would update the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) to incorporate statutory changes to limitations on subcontracting that have been in effect since 2013. The U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) has long since revised its own regulations to implement these changes, but some contracting officers have been reluctant to follow these changes in the SBA regulations because the FAR contains contradictory provisions.

The proposed rule is a sign of progress. In particular, it should add significant clarity to the current disconnect between the FAR and SBA regulations. However, the proposed rule is not perfect, and a number of recent developments highlight that outstanding questions remain.


Continue Reading Signs of Progress with the Limitations on Subcontracting, but Outstanding Questions Remain

The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) recently announced that it was initiating an audit to determine whether agencies within DoD awarded Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (“SDVOSB”) set-aside and sole-source contracts to eligible companies. The audit is set to begin this month, and likely will evaluate the number and value of contracts awarded to SDVOSBs under set-asides and sole-source procurements, as well as whether and how agencies confirm that awardees qualify as SDVOSBs at the time of award. The audit, which comes six years after the OIG previously determined that DoD did not have adequate controls in place to ensure the integrity of the SDVOSB set-aside program, signals that SDVOSB eligibility issues are likely to become a greater point of emphasis in future enforcement proceedings.

Continue Reading DoD OIG Audit: What SDVOSBs Need to Know

Earlier this month, in Rothe Development, Inc. v. Department of Defense, the D.C. Circuit upheld the constitutionality of the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) 8(a) program by rejecting arguments that the Small Business Act contains an unconstitutional classification based on race.  Although the decision will likely be seen as a positive development for small business government contractors and other 8(a) program supporters, the court’s opinion leaves the door open for further challenges to the 8(a) program based on the SBA’s implementing regulations.

Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Upholds Constitutionality of SBA’s 8(a) Program

As we discussed in a recent post, the Supreme Court’s decision in Kingdomware Technologies, Inc. v. United States left a number of questions unanswered regarding the implementation of set-aside requirements for veteran-owned small businesses under Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) contracts.  The decision has already had repercussions outside the set-aside context, with the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently applying Kingdomware’s reasoning in Coast Professional, Inc. v United States to confirm bid protest jurisdiction under the Tucker Act for orders placed under FSS contracts.

Congressional testimony subsequent to Kingdomware also now confirms that a number of agencies are considering whether the Supreme Court’s decision has broader implications for other small business programs.  Specifically, the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) has publically recognized that the Supreme Court’s reasoning may extend beyond a relatively narrow statute governing U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) set asides and require significant changes to long-standing principles established under the Small Business Act.  As result, the VA’s and the SBA’s interests may no longer be aligned as the agencies attempt to reconcile currently differing implementations of related set-aside programs.


Continue Reading SBA Considers Potential Consequences of Kingdomware Technologies

The U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) recently issued a notice detailing proposed amendments to the policy directives governing the Small Business Innovation Research (“SBIR”) and Small Business Technology Transfer (“STTR”) programs.  The notice indicates that the SBA intends to implement significant changes to the current data rights provided under SBIR/STTR awards, as well as the method by which program participants—or their successors in interest—receive preferences in the third phase of efforts to develop technologies under either program.

The proposed changes open up new possibilities for a company’s competitors to benefit from its participation in the SBIR/STTR programs. However, the changes also provide additional certainty that may encourage increased participation by small research and development companies and investors that are currently unsure as to whether SBIR/STTR awards can effectively be used to commercialize new technologies.


Continue Reading SBA Proposes New Data Rights and Phase III Preferences under SBIR/STTR Awards

On November 6, 2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) issued a proposed rule (the “Proposed Rule”) to clarify the byzantine verification process for veteran-owned small businesses (“VOSB”) and veteran-owned service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (“SDVOSB”)1 who want to participate in the VA’s Veterans First Contracting Program.  VA Veteran-Owned Small Business Verification Guidelines, Proposed Rule, 80 Fed. Reg. 68,795 (to be codified at 38 C.F.R. Part 74). The Proposed Rule revises a 2013 advanced notice of proposed rulemaking and considers 39 public comments received in response to the prior notice.  Comments on the latest proposed rule are due on or before January 5, 2016.

Under the Veterans First Contracting Program, the VA offers set-asides and sole source opportunities to certified VOSB and SDVOSB firms.  Unfortunately, the program has struggled to gain a foothold in the government procurement landscape because its VA-administered regulations are confusing and the set-aside opportunities are limited to VA procurements.  At the same time, the Government Accountability Office and the VA’s Office of the Inspector General have targeted the program for pervasive fraud, and stakeholders have criticized the verification program as unnecessarily rigorous when compared against other socio-economic programs administered by the Small Business Administration (“SBA”).

As a result, through its Proposed Rule, the VA “seeks to find an appropriate balance between preventing fraud . . . and providing a process that would make it easier for more VOSBs to become verified.”  The VA attempts to strike this balance by significantly amending the VOSB ownership regulations to make them easier to understand, and bringing many of the requirements in line with SBA interpretations of similar requirements under similar programs.


Continue Reading VA Proposes to Make VOSB Verification Easier Under the Veterans First Contracting Program

Last week, the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) published a proposed rule that if implemented will increase the opportunity for large and small businesses to partner on unrestricted competitions and small business set asides by creating a comprehensive Mentor-Protégé Program that will allow any type of small business contractor to partner with another company without risking the contractor’s small business status.  The new comprehensive Program is modeled on the current 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Program, which will remain in effect but be modified under the proposed rule to create more opportunities for contracting with small disadvantaged businesses.  The proposed rule comes shortly after another proposal from the SBA that—among other sweeping changes—will create new opportunities for partnerships between similarly situated small businesses, such as allowing joint ventures to qualify as small so long as each individual partner qualifies as small.

The proposed rule implements provisions of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 and National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which together authorized the SBA to expand the current 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Program to all small businesses, including HUBZone, women-owned, and service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses, as well as small businesses that do not qualify for a particular socioeconomic subcategory.  The SBA estimates that approximately 2,000 small businesses could participate in the new comprehensive Program, resulting in contracts valued at approximately $2 billion per year.  In addition to creating opportunities for large and small businesses to partner on small business set asides, the comprehensive Program will likely benefit both large and small businesses in unrestricted competitions.  If implemented, small businesses could compete for larger awards and large businesses could take advantage of price evaluation preferences when partnering with HUBZone small businesses and potentially derive other benefits currently offered to large businesses that subcontract with protégé firms, such as receiving evaluation preferences or additional credit toward obtaining small business subcontracting goals.


Continue Reading SBA Proposes Comprehensive Small Business Mentor-Protégé Program

Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) recently introduced the Reforming Federal Procurement of Information Technology (“RFP-IT”) Act. This Act is similar in many ways to earlier drafts of the FITARA bill on which we have previously reported, with a few notable differences. Among other things, the RFP-IT Act would:

  • significantly increase the Simplified Acquisition