By Pacific Island Times News Staff
A. Samoa rep seeks to level playing field for small businesses in remote areas
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Aumua Amata Radewagen of American Samoa has reintroduced her small business bill, which drew strong support and was passed by the full House of Representatives last year before the end of the 116th Congress.
The Parity for HUBZone Appeals Act (H.R. 8229) directs the Small Business Administration (SBA) to authorize the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) to hear HUBZone appeals.
H.R. 8229 is cosponsored by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pennsylvania) and Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minnesota).
The historically underutilized business zone (HUBZone) federal contracting program assists small businesses in economically disadvantaged 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 bill’s reform would increase objectivity and transparency for small businesses upon appeal.
“The HUBZone program helps level the playing field for small businesses in remote or otherwise economically challenged areas, such as American Samoa,” said Amata.
“Through this bill, we can make small business appeals a more transparent and even-handed process. Thank you especially to Congresswoman Houlahan and Congressman Stauber for working together on this effort. This bill is an opportunity to ensure these principles of fairness are followed for small business appeals.”
“If we’re talking about rebuilding our economy, then we’re talking about supporting our small businesses,” said Houlahan. “They are the very soul of our economy, and our recovery is entirely dependent on them. The HUBZone program helps ensure that small businesses in economically challenged areas both here in Pennsylvania and across the country can thrive."
Houlahan said strengthening the program's appeal process is a necessary step to ensure transparency and an equitable economic recovery and growth.
“In largely rural districts like mine, the HUBZone program helps many local small businesses remain competitive by offering access to federal contracting opportunities,” said Stauber. "This program not only helps businesses succeed – it helps revitalize the local economies -- which is why I am proud to help lead legislation to ensure a fair and transparent appeals process."
Currently, a final appeal of a HUBZone business’s status in the program goes to the Associate Administrator of the Office of Government Contracting & Business Development, which also oversees the program office that signs off on the certifications. Yet, OHA already hears status protests or appeals regarding a company’s eligibility in the program for all of the other SBA contracting programs, except for the current HUBZone program, which this bill rectifies.
This change would eliminate conflict or appearance of conflict by removing oversight of the appeals from the entity that issues those HUBZone certifications.
OHA is a separate body from the offices that issue certifications, making it a more appropriate and objective venue to process status inquiries.
It makes sense for both the SBA and taxpayers to have all appeals heard under one roof. OHA already handles appeals for the WOSB (women-owned small business), and SDVOSB (service-disabled veteran-owned small business) programs, and eligibility determinations for the 8(a) program, and under this common-sense reform, would take on HUBZone appeals.
OHA offers more transparency, to the benefit of the public and small businesses. OHA’s decisions are published online and searchable, providing a clear “paper trail.”