GSA, Pandemic Style

GSA is moving quickly to enact several initiatives while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the current state of emergency necessitates the Federal Acquisition Service to purchase medical supplies and other equipment at a fast clip, Contracting Officers have no choice but to react with a fair amount of speed and flexibility. (Federal News Network, May 1, 2020)

This includes:

  • changing policies for prompt payment and onboarding/offboarding of contractors
  • construction of the new e-commerce marketplace platform, which was paused during the first few weeks of the pandemic, is now moving forward, albeit at a much slower pace
  • monitoring other initiatives possibly impacting by the pandemic, such as Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS)
  • continuing corrective actions on Alliant 2 revised proposals
  • expanding the small business innovation research (SBIR) program, part three

Some government markets, like travel, have declined; however cleaning products and enhanced screening services have increased exponentially. (ibid)

Any questions about getting your product or service in front of government buyers? Give us a call.

Emergency Rules

Government ontractors and small businesses should be aware of increased opportunities during the current COVID-19 national emergency. The government is permitted, during a national emergency, to set aside solicitations to allow awards “only to offerors residing or doing business primarily in the area affected by …[a] major disaster or emergency.” Contractors can verify if they fall into this category by reviewing Federal Acquisition Regulation 52.226-3(d). (Law360.com, April 13, 2020)

A national emergency declaration allows the government to (restrict) certain solicitations to small businesses in certain areas. These solicitations are either a set-aside or an evaluation preference is given to small businesses. (ibid)

During national emergencies, large contractors should look to team with small businesses, or to current teaming agreements already in place. In addition, contractors who are at the ready to produce/provide goods or services may be called on to contract with agencies to battle COVID-19. (ibid)

Micro purchase thresholds are another acquisition procedure government agencies may use during a national emergency. These allow for a simplified acquisition methodology for specific items or services required under emergency situations, such as the COVID-19 national emergency. (ibid)

State and local governments may also procure under the Stafford Act, wherein state governors request financial relief via federal grants that allow procurement under their own procedures. The Stafford Act authorizes federal contracts for “debris clearance, distribution of supplies, reconstruction, and other major disaster or emergency assistance activities.” In 2006 the Local Community Recovery Act amended the Stafford Act mandating local organizations to be given preference when using full and open competition. The FAR was also amended to align with the Local Community Recovery Act. Under the act, if a contractor does not meet all of the Recovery Act stipulations there are other factors that may be considered. (Contractors may self-certify that they are local.) (ibid)

Other streamlining acquisition procedures are available under federal supply schedule contracts, multi-agency blanket purchase agreements, and multi-agency indefinite-delivery contracts. Additionally, there is an easing of the requirement that a contractor be registered in SAM.gov at the time an offer is submitted to the government. (ibid)

The emergency declaration allows state and local governments to purchase from all GSA schedules. It also encourages accelerated payments to small business contractors.  (ibid)

Additional modified procedures to facilitate swift responses are:

  • Relaxation of qualifications requirements
  • Use of sole-source contracts
  • Use of oral requests for proposals
  • Use of letter contracts
  • Interagency acquisitions
  • Awards to small disadvantaged businesses
  • Retroactive overtime approvals
  • Waivers of bid guarantees when an emergency exists
  • Use of protest overrides where necessary for a contracting process to continue

In order to track procurements related to COVID-19, GSA added a National Interest Action (NIA) code to SAM.gov. To find information on the site, simply type COVID-19 2020 in the search bar. (ibid) Contractors can register with SAM.gov under the disaster response registry, and be sure to monitor the portals most closely aligned to the goods or services you provide.

Have questions about the many opportunities available under the current national emergency? Give us a call.

Agency Spending During the Pandemic

Government contractors are experiencing difficulties as they work through obstacles and uncertainties during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, if you thought spending would slow, think again.

In response to the emergency, spending likely exceeded $100 billion for the month of March, according to a webcast hosted by George Mason University’s Center for Government Contracting (GMU). Because of a standard 90-day reporting lag, that figure is likely to be even higher. (Washington Technology, March 31, 2020)

The department of Health and Human Services is responsible for the bulk of non-defense contracting activity with commitments of approximately $748.5 million under research and development. Eric Lofgren, a GMU research fellow, feels the majority of that is going toward “Other Transaction” contracts, designed for speed of fielding capabilities as they fall outside of traditional acquisition regulations. (ibid)

Orders are also being solicited and placed for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as well as services such as testing and cleaning. Orders of this nature could very well rise to over $100 billion in response to the COVID-19 emergency. Non-defense spending, as of 27 March, totaled $15 billion, which is on track for spending during the same timeframe in 2019. However, the recently passed CARES Act stimulus package frees up $2 trillion so agencies have funds available for immediate use. (ibid)

The Department of Defense is looking at how the commercial industry is designing solutions. In March, DoD requested white papers from the academic community and private industry for prototype solutions to prevent, contain, treat, and detect coronavirus as well as other possible bio-threats. Many believe this is just the start as DoD begins to support the federal government’s pandemic response. (ibid)

Jerry McGinn, executive director of the GMU GovCon Center and former head of DoD’s manufacturing and industrial base policy office said, “Initially a lot of industry was in the sources sought phase of solicitations, now you’re starting to see they’re just going straight to solicitations…. They’re publishing notices on one day and requiring responses the next, and this is just going to accelerate.”

Questions about these solicitations and how your company might provide solutions? Give us a call.

Government Contractor Aid

A recent study conducted by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) found that over half of small business government contractors are losing money due to a reduction in billable hours as a direct result of stay-at-home orders. To assist, the DoD is adjusting approximately 1,500 contracts to aid with cash flow for those contractors suffering financial strain. (Federal News Network, March 30, 2020)

The Defense Contract Management Agency is administering a mass modification to increase the amount of money allowed to pay vendors who have not finished their work under their current contracts. These “progress payments” will be increased to 95 percent for small companies and 90 percent for large companies. (ibid)

Additionally, provisions for contractors that cannot telework due to the nature of their work were signed into law on 27 March 27 2020 under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, aimed at supporting individuals and businesses struggling with the economic downturn,  as a result of the pandemic. (Government Executive, March 31, 2020)

For some contractors, agencies may “modify the terms and conditions of a contract or other agreement” to reimburse at the minimum applicable contract billing rates” up to an “average of 40 hours per week for any paid leave a contractor provides to keep its employees or subcontractors in a ready state” as stated under the Act. (ibid)

The National Defense Industrial Association and the Professional Services Council both commend the act. During the pandemic, the Act will assist in ensuring contractors are part of the economic relief efforts and kept in a ready state. The legislation runs through the end of the fiscal year, 30 September 2020.

Questions about your minimum billing rates or how to obtain reimbursement? Give us a call.

More COVID-19 Guidance

Last week the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) updated its agency guidance for federal contractors, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The three main takeaways are:

  • Agencies are encouraged to work with their contractors to allow for the maximization of telework.
  • Agencies must be flexible providing extensions to performance dates if working virtually isn’t possible or if a contractor must quarantine. Agencies should also weigh whether to keep key personnel in a mobile-ready state for national security measures.
  • Agencies are urged to leverage the special emergency procurement authorized in connection with the emergency declaration under the “Stafford Act”. These include increases to: the micro-purchase threshold; the simplified acquisition threshold; and the threshold for using simplified procedures for certain commercial items. These are designed to reduce discord for contractors, especially small businesses, allowing for a more rapid response to the increasing demands agencies face. (Nextgov, March 22, 2020)

The agency guidance comes after trade groups and lawmakers strongly voiced the need for contractor guidance. The updated guidance includes a section of frequently asked questions, including contractor exposure to COVID-19. (ibid)

OMB also issued technology guidance for use during the COVID-19 national emergency. The technology guidance also includes a FAQ section, with steps to ensure IT and cybersecurity measures are met while working remotely. It urges agencies to continue updating their websites to enable public access to government services.

Need some help figuring out OMBs agency guidance for contractors? Give us a call.