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Friday, July 16, 2010

Small Business Administration HUBZone Program

Robert Jay Dilger
Senior Specialist in American National Government

The Small Business Administration (SBA) administers several programs to support small businesses, including the Historically Underutilized Business Zone Empowerment Contracting (HUBZone) program. The HUBZone program is a small business federal contracting assistance program "whose primary objective is job creation and increasing capital investment in distressed communities." It provides participating small businesses located in areas with low income, high poverty rates, or high unemployment rates with contracting opportunities in the form of "setasides," sole-source awards, and price-evaluation preferences.

In FY2009, the federal government awarded contracts valued at $13.1 billion to HUBZone certified businesses, with $3.4 billion of that amount awarded through the HUBZone program. The program's total administrative cost is an estimated $11.7 million. In FY2010, it received an appropriation of $2.2 million, with the additional cost of administering the program provided by the SBA's appropriation for general administrative expenses.

Congressional interest in the HUBZone program has increased in recent years, primarily due to U.S. Government Accountability Office reports of fraud in the program. Some Members have called for the program's termination. Others have recommended that the SBA continue its efforts to improve its administration of the program, especially its efforts to prevent fraud.

This report examines the arguments presented both for and against targeting assistance to geographic areas with specified characteristics, such as low income, high poverty, or high unemployment, as opposed to providing assistance to people or businesses with specified characteristics. It then assesses the arguments presented both for and against the creation and continuation of the HUBZone program, starting with the arguments presented during consideration of P.L. 105-135, the HUBZone Act of 1997 (Title VI of the Small Business Reauthorization Act of 1997), which authorized the program.

The report also discusses the HUBZone program's structure and operation, focusing on the definitions of HUBZone areas and HUBZone small businesses and the program's performance relative to federal contracting goals. The report concludes with an analysis of the (1) SBA's administration of the program, (2) SBA's performance measures, (3) potential consequences of a recent U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruling that federal contract set-asides for HUBZone small businesses have precedence over those for the SBA's 8(a) program small businesses when two or more federal contract set-aside programs could potentially be used, and (4) potential effect of the 2010 decennial census on which areas qualify as a HUBZone.

Several bills are also discussed, including S. 3020, the HUBZone Improvement Act of 2010, which would require the SBA to implement several GAO recommendations designed to improve the SBA's administration of the program and extend for three years HUBZone eligibility for firms that lose their HUBZone eligibility due to the release of 2010 decennial census economic data. Also, S. 3190, the Small Business Programs Parity Act of 2010; S. 1489, the Small Business Contracting Programs Parity Act of 2009; H.R. 3729, a bill to amend Section 31 of the Small Business Act, and S.Amdt. 4407, an amendment in the nature of a substitute for H.R. 5297, the Small Business Lending Fund Act of 2010, are examined. They would amend the Small Business Act to create parity for the HUBZone program and other small business contracting programs.

Date of Report: July 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: R41268
Price: $29.95

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