Almost two years have passed since the onset of the pandemic. And yet, it continues to impact government contracting. On August 25, 2021, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that it will temporarily suspend the rule on 8(a) construction contracts that required 8(a) participants to have a bona fide place of business within the geographic area of the contract at time of award. This moratorium is in effect through September 30, 2022, although administrative extensions are possible.
We at GovContractPros applaud SBA’s modification. It temporarily removes an unnecessary burden on 8(a) firms to participate in federal contracting requirements. We have assisted several small disadvantaged firms to navigate these complex program requirements. We support any efforts to place 8(a) construction contracts on par with all other 8(a) contracts and welcome all eligible firms to offer their services to the government regardless of zip code.
While this administrative moratorium allows some temporary breathing room for 8(a) construction firms, we hope that Congress will take decisive action to permanently eliminate the bona fide office requirement prior to the September 30, 2022 expiration on SBA’s administrative action. The bona fide office rule is unusual, unnecessary, and unseen in any other industry. It serves no purpose other than to restrict eligible offerors to those who sign a year-long office lease and hire full-time staff on payroll prior to negotiating an 8(a) contract award. In addition, the methodology for determining which geographic locations, metropolitan statistical areas, and contiguous jurisdictions qualify for a particular award is cumbersome and leads to confusion among federal procurement personnel about the talent pool they can engage on a requirement.
The current administration has placed an emphasis on casting a broader net to engage nontraditional actors in the federal contracting ecosystem. The current House and Senate majorities, in this window of unified government, should work with the administration to streamline eligibility for all 8(a) contracts.