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Bipartisan SBA HUBZone Legislation passes U.S. House committee

Congresswoman Aumua Amata
Sources: Media release from Cong. Aumua Amata's office

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA – Last week Friday, Congresswoman Aumua Amata welcomed Committee passage of her bipartisan small business bill, which she introduced the week before with Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pennsylvania). The Parity for HUBZone Appeals Act (H.R. 8229) directs the Small Business Administration (SBA) to authorize the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) to hear HUBZone appeals. Amata’s bill was marked up Wednesday by the Committee on Small Business, and passed with broad bipartisan support, along with three other small business bills.

The Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) federal contracting program assists small businesses in economically disadvantaged areas (HUBZone qualified areas) by providing them with better access to federal contracting opportunities. The business must meet eligibility criteria in order to be HUBZone-certified. For instance, effectively all of American Samoa is a HUBZone-qualified area under those requirements.

“This program levels the playing field for small businesses in areas such as American Samoa that are remote and have economic challenges,” said Congresswoman Aumua Amata. “I’m delighted to sponsor this bill to ensure transparent and even-handed appeals. Thank you to Congresswoman Houlahan for working with me to support these important principles ensuring fairness for small businesses.”

OHA already hears status protests or appeals regarding a company’s eligibility in the program for all of the other SBA contracting programs, except for the current HUBZone program, which this bill would rectify. Currently, a final appeal of a HUBZone business’s status in the program goes to the Associate Administrator of the Office of Government Contracting & Business Development (GCBD), which also oversees the program office that signs off on the certifications.

This bill would eliminate direct conflict or any such perception by removing oversight of the appeals from the entity that issues those HUBZone certifications in the first place.

•    OHA is a separate body from the contracting offices that issue certifications, making it a more appropriate and objective venue to process these status inquiries.
•    It makes sense for the SBA and taxpayers to have all appeals heard under one roof. OHA already handles appeals for the WOSB (women-owned small business), and SDVOSB (service-disabled veteran-owned small business) programs, and eligibility determinations for the 8(a) program, and under this common sense reform, would take on HUBZone appeals.
•    OHA offers more transparency, to the benefit of the public and small businesses. OHA’s decisions are published online and searchable, providing a clear “paper trail.”
These reform efforts will be welcomed by the HUBZone Council, and attract broad support among the small business federal contracting community.