Just like the elves in Santa’s workshop, Congress has been busy this winter season! Among the chaos, three bills with the potential to impact small business Federal government contractors have been percolating. The first and third bill propose amendments to laws already in place covering surviving spouses of SDVOSB owners and the Department of Homeland Security’s Mentor-Protege Program, while the second bill proposes an entirely new SBA program for small businesses geared toward promoting research and development efforts. Here’s our brief summary of each bill:
H.R. 499: Service-Disabled Veterans Small Business Continuation Act
H.R. 499 was introduced November 14. If passed, this bill would impact the Small Business Act’s definition of “small business concern owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans” (located at 15 U.S.C. 623(q)). It would specifically alter the treatment of surviving spouses of SDVOSB owners. Under the bill, if a service-disabled veteran owner had a “service-connected disability rated as 100 percent disabling or who dies as a result of a service-connected disability,” and their ownership percentage in the SDVOSB passed to their spouse upon their death, the spouse may continue to operate the business as an SDVOSB for up to 10 years (if they do not remarry or relinquish the ownership percentage). If, however, the “service-connected disability rated as less than 100 percent disabling” and the service-disabled veteran owner did not die from the service-connected disability, a surviving spouse could continue to operate the business as an SDVOSB for three years.
Currently, the law only permits surviving spouses of SDVOSB owners with 100 percent disabled service-connected disabilities to continue to operate the business as an SDVOSB for any period of time. This bill, however, would allow surviving spouses of only partially disabled owners to continue operation as well, albeit for a shorter duration. As of this week, the bill has been voted on by the House and referred to the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
H.R. 5348: Small Business Innovation Voucher Act of 2019
H.R. 5348 was introduced to the House on December 6th. This bill would require the SBA to establish the “Innovation Voucher Grant Program.” Under the program, the SBA’s Administrator would be able to provide small businesses grants for purchases made from institutions of higher education or nonprofit research labs, institutions, or other similar organizations “necessary to carry out projects to advance research, development, or commercialization of new or innovative products and services.” The bill dictates how the SBA should review grant applications, including evaluation considerations and priority for certain types of small businesses. Each grant would be between $25,000 and $100,000, with $10 million appropriated to the SBA each year from 2020 to 2024 to carry out the Program.
Passing this bill would create the very first federally funded innovation voucher program. Representative Jason Crow (CO-06) , who introduced the bill along with Representative Tim Burchett (TN-02), emphasized the importance of the bill. “Ensuring a dynamic marketplace of ideas,” said Rep. Crow, “begins with a diversity of businesses working together to build the next generation of technology.” The bill is currently awaiting a vote by the House and has been referred to the House Committee on Small Business.
H.R. 4727: Department of Homeland Security Mentor-Protege Program Act of 2019
Finally, H.R. 4727 was introduced on December 10. Passing this bill would permit the Department of Homeland Security to officially establish its own Mentor-Protege program, in line with a number of other agencies (including the SBA, DoD, and others).
Though DHS’s Mentor-Protege Program has existed since 2003, it’s rules hadn’t been fully codified. This bill would require the DHS to put more details about the program and its requirements on the books. Currently, the bill has passed by the House and is now sitting in the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
SmallGovCon‘s authors aim to keep you in the know about all things impacting small business government contracts. Keep checking in for updates on these bills, or contact us with your questions about them!
*Preliminary research for this blog post was conducted by Associate Attorney Robert Kampen.