Upcoming SBA Rule Will Switch to 24-Month Calculation for Employee Size Standards

SBA has issued a final rule changing all employee size standards to a 24-month calculation. This rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on June 6, 2022, and and will take effect 30 days from the date it is officially published. Let’s take a closer look.

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Setting the Standard: How the SBA Determines Size Standards for Small Businesses

In a recent post, we examined some proposed new size standards for manufacturing and other industries that utilize employee-based size standards. This probably got many of you wondering: How does the SBA determine what the size standards should be? It’s a good question, and today, we’re going to look at just that. Hopefully, this will provide some insight as to the SBA’s approach to setting size standards.

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Congress Lengthens Employee-Based Size Standard Period

If you’re a regular SmallGovCon reader (and we hope you are!), you probably are familiar with the Small Business Runway Extension Act. Under the Runway Extension Act, Congress lengthened the period used to determine small business status under receipts-based size standards, from three to five years. Congress’s laudable goal was to allow businesses to “stay small” longer, but the Runway Extension Act can backfire when a business has been shrinking instead of growing.

Now, Congress has done it again. In the Conference Report to the 2021 NDAA, Congress has extended the period used to measure employee-based size standards, from 12 to 24 months–and whether this is good news may depend on if a business has been growing or shrinking.

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SBA: It’s (Maybe) Fine if You Didn’t Count the Employees of Your Foreign Affiliates for PPP Purposes

In what might be a classic “now you tell me” scenario, the SBA issued a new rule May 21 saying that if an applicant failed to count the employees of its foreign affiliates when it was determining its eligibility, the SBA will not hold that against the applicant so long as the application was submitted before the SBA clarified that requirement.

The problem with that, however, is that because the safe harbor ended May 18, it’s highly likely that a lot of those businesses already gave their PPP loan back. They’d be forgiven for thinking they had to, as earlier this month Sen. Marco Rubio was indicating that Congress would investigate companies who took PPP funds for which they weren’t eligible.

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SBA Rejects Major Changes in Size Standard Methodology

The SBA has rejected several recommendations for major changes in how the SBA calculates small business size status.

In commentary published in the Federal Register last week, the SBA rejected (among other things) recommendations that it use average employee count to evaluate the sizes of construction firms and that other firms’ sizes be measured by profits or net worth instead of average annual receipts.

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SBA Eliminates Megawatt Hours Size Standards

The SBA has issued a final rule eliminating the unusual megawatt hours size standard applicable to six NAICS codes in NAICS Sector 22.  The SBA’s revision replaces the megawatt hours size standard with a 500-employee size standard, and eliminates the requirement that a firm must be “primarily engaged” in the generation, transmission  or distribution of energy for sale.

Although the megawatt hours size standard may have made sense when it was adopted in the 1970s, the SBA appropriately recognized that the market has changed.  Perhaps most important, the “primarily engaged” component of the megawatt hours size standard unfairly excluded many companies from competing as “small” in NAICS Sector 22.

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