5 Things You Should Know: Disaster Relief Federal Government Contracting

The 2018 Hurricane Season is now in full swing and the damage cost totals continue to rise for our friends on the East Coast. Disasters, like hurricanes, often arise quickly and without much warning, requiring quick responses from the Government and government contractors.

If your small business has been impacted by a natural disaster, or is interested in participating in the rebuilding and relief efforts that follow cataclysmic events by acquiring government contracts, here are five things you should know.

1. Register for the Disaster Response Registry.

The Disaster Response Registry is part of SAM, in accordance with FAR 4.11 and  FAR 26.2. The Registry lists contractors willing to provide emergency relief supplies and services. This is the first place government agencies look for contractors that can support disaster relief efforts as quickly as possible.

To become part of the Registry, you must indicate your willingness to participate and provide related information when you register in SAM. Generally, its best to register before disaster strikes because, as stated on the Registry’s website, “on average, it takes 2-3 days to properly register and have your registration become active in SAM. It may take longer.”

2. Expect Expedited Bidding Procedures.

Generally, the FAR requires full and open competition for contracts to the extent possible and practicable, but allows for the use of Simplified Acquisition Procedures when the contracts don’t exceed the regulatory threshold. This threshold can also be increased by an agency head when the President or Congress declares a national emergency. The simplified procedures and other “acquisition flexibilities” in accordance with FAR Part 18  are used frequently for disaster relief contracts to speed up the acquisition process.

In times of emergency, the FAR also permits “Other Than Full and Open Competition” under FAR 6.3. However, this is not considered ideal, or very common recently. According to a report published by the GAO reflecting on government relief efforts after Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma in 2017, only 27% of the contract obligations arising from these hurricanes were “noncompetitive.” Accordingly, be prepared to adhere to the simplified acquisition procedures if you plan to bid on a relief related contract.

3. Agencies may Modify Contract Requirements.

In some cases, agencies have the authority to modify certain federal government contract requirements when a major disaster is declared by the President. For example, the Department of Labor granted narrow, limited duration National Interest Exemptions, waiving certain Equal Employment Opportunity requirements, in relation to contracts surrounding recent Hurricanes Michael and Florence. If you intend to contract with the federal government to provide relief pursuant to a specific event, make sure you check out any modified requirements that might apply to you.

4. Make Sure You’re Prepared to Help.

If you are looking to support disaster relief efforts through contracts with the federal government, you will probably be working with certain agencies. Based on the GAO report previously mentioned, the top contracting agency in support of relief for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria was, not surprisingly, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as FEMA is in charge of coordinating federal disaster response across 30 federal agencies.

FEMA was followed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S Coast Guard. Additionally, the report discussed the most common products and services sought by these agencies. The top five products sought were categorized as Non-alcoholic Beverages, Prefabricated and Portable Buildings, Food (Oils and fats), Miscellaneous Electric Power Supplies, and Composite Food Packages. Furthermore, the top services sought included Repair or Alteration of Buildings, Utilities (Electric), Inspection, Professional Support, and Data Collection, followed closely by Architect and Engineering, and Medical Services.

If your business provides these goods or services, you may be a good fit for providing aid. However, be forewarned: in many cases, including this case regarding 2017 Hurricane Maria, expectations for relief can be great and ensuring that your business is truly prepared to the provide goods and services to the extent requested is essential, both to performing the contract adequately, but more importantly, to the lives of victims of such disasters.

5. Preparedness and Support for Your Small Business.

If you or your small business are aiming to prepare for natural disasters (or other unplanned hazards) or have experienced the impact of such a disaster, there are a number of public and private resources to assist you.

To ensure your business is prepared, check out these resources from the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, and the SBA. For relief, check out federal government assistance offered by FEMA,  the SBA, and others, as well as assistance provided by a number of state based or non-profit organizations in your area.

Questions about this post? Or need help with a government contracting legal issue? Email us or give us a call at 785-200-8919.

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