HUBZone Program: SBA’s Proposed Rule Clears Up Some Common Misconceptions

Last week, the SBA released a proposal to overhaul the HUBZone Program.  The proposed rule will make major changes to almost all aspects of the HUBZone Program, and my colleague Ian Patterson is covering those changes in a series of two posts on SmallGovCon.

But while the proposed HUBZone Program rule changes will garner most of the headlines, the SBA also has used the proposed rule as an opportunity to clear up a few very common HUBZone Program misconceptions–such as the notion that so-called “jobsite employees” don’t count toward the 35% HUBZone residency requirement.

Here are three of the most important clarifications SBA offered in the proposed HUBZone rule.

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2018 NDAA: Changes to the HUBZone Program

The HUBZone program has received its fair share of coverage on our blog, from recommended changes in the 35% employee-location requirement to SBA regulatory updates to the program. Well, the HUBZone program is once again undergoing some changes thanks to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act–but note that some of these changes are not effective until January 1, 2020.

These changes include a requirement for an improved online mapping tool, a mandate that HUBZone verifications be processed in 60 days, and more. Here’s a look at some of the most significant HUBZone changes in the 2018 NDAA.

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SBA Considering 8(a), HUBZone Changes

The SBA is considering making changes to improve its socioeconomic programs–particularly the 8(a) and HUBZone Programs.

In a talk yesterday at the 2017 Navy Gold Coast Procurement Conference, Robb Wong, the SBA’s recently-appointed Associate Administrator, Office of Government Contracting and Business Development, discussed some of the big changes the SBA is considering.  And to my ears, at least, a lot of what Mr. Wong said makes good sense.

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HUBZone Program: Employees Must Reside In HUBZones On Award Date

In order for an employee to count as a HUBZone resident for purposes of a specific HUBZone contract, the employee must reside in an officially designated HUBZone on the contract award date.

A recent decision of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims is a cautionary tale for HUBZone companies, which are responsible for ensuring that the 35% employee residency requirement is met on the award date.

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HUBZone Program: Court Decision Highlights “Fracture” Policy

The SBA will not aggregate a HUBZone applicant’s employees with the employees of the applicant’s affiliates for purposes of determining compliance with the “35% rule,” but only if the SBA determines that there is a “clear line of fracture” between the HUBZone applicant and its affiliates.

A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims highlights an important SBA policy, which isn’t codified in the SBA’s regulations but can have a tremendous impact on HUBZone Program eligibility.

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HUBZone Fraud: $250,000 Settlement In “Virtual Office” Case

A small business and its owner have agreed to pay $250,000 to resolve HUBZone fraud allegations, including a claim that the company’s HUBZone office was a “virtual” location where no employees actually worked.

According to a Department of Justice press release, Air Ideal, Inc. and its majority owner have also agreed to pay the government five percent of the company’s gross revenues over the next five years.

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HUBZone Certifications Averaging 116 Days–And Other Tidbits From The SBA OIG HUBZone Report

HUBZone certifications are averaging 116 days from the date of application to the date of certification, according to a fascinating SBA Office of Inspector General Report on the HUBZone certification process.  The 116-day time frame is considerably longer than the SBA’s goal of 90 days.  However, in a majority of cases, the SBA does complete the certification process within 90 days of receiving all of the applicant’s supporting documentation.

In addition to an overview of the time frames associated with a HUBZone certification (a question I am often asked), the SBA OIG report concludes that the SBA’s HUBZone application procedures need updating–and that three potentially ineligible firms were certified in 2012.

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