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Small Business HUBZone Amendment Included in National Defense Authorization Act

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata welcomed House passage of her amendment Thursday placing her small business bill, the Parity for HUBZone Appeals Act, H.R. 8229, within the larger National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), H.R. 4350. The House passed her amendment as part of an en bloc amendment – a means of moving quickly on a group of legislative items known to have widespread support.

In June, Congresswoman Amata reintroduced the bill in collaboration with original cosponsors Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pennsylvania) and Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minnesota). Last year, the bill also attracted strong bipartisan support and was passed by the full House of Representatives, but not by the Senate at the conclusion of the 116th Congress.

The amendment directs the Small Business Administration (SBA) to authorize the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) to hear HUBZone appeals. 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.

Effectively, all of American Samoa is a HUBZone-qualified area under those requirements. This reform would increase objectivity and transparency for small businesses upon appeal.

“The HUBZone program aims at a more level playing field for small businesses in economically challenged or geographically remote areas, which includes American Samoa,” said Congresswoman Amata. “This amendment will reform small business appeals to be assured they are transparent and even-handed. I’ve appreciated working with Congresswoman Houlahan and Congressman Stauber for some time on this effort to ensure fairness.”

This reform eliminates any conflict or appearance of conflict by removing oversight of the appeals from the same entity that issues the HUBZone certifications. Currently, a final appeal of a HUBZone business’s status goes to the Office of Government Contracting & Business Development (GCBD), which also oversees the office that signs off on the certifications. The amendment moves appeals to OHA, which already hears such status protests or appeals for other SBA contracting programs.

OHA is a separate body from the offices that issue certifications, making it a more appropriate, objective venue; allowing both the SBA and taxpayers to have all appeals heard under one roof; offering more transparency; and providing searchable publication of OHA decisions online for a clear record.

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