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A live Q&A session with small business experts. Submit your question before or during the chat discussion. You cannot submit question after Closing Remarks for the chat. No registration is needed for the web chat.

Regulatory Fairness: What Every Small Business Should Know

Monday, October 25, 2010 2:00 PM

Small businesses can sometimes face excessive or unfair federal enforcement actions, like repetitive audits or investigations, excessive fines, threats, retaliation or some other unfair enforcement action by a federal agency. Did you know that the SBA can help your small business with these kinds of issues?

The National Ombudsman receives complaints and comments from small businesses and can act as a liaison between a business and a federal agency.  Comments received are forwarded to federal agencies for a high level review, and federal agencies are requested to consider the fairness of their enforcement action.

Chat participants can get answers to their questions about how the Office of the National Ombudsman can help small business owners with excessive and unfair federal regulatory enforcements, and how the national ombudsman can be a vital resource for a small business.

Note: There is not an audio format for the online chat, and no broadcast capability. SBA moderators retain editorial control over the online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for chat participants and hosts. Chat hosts may decline to answer questions.

Chat Transcript

From : U.S. Small Business Administration
Location : Washington , D.C.
Question :

 

Reply :
Good Afternoon. Welcome to the SBA WEB CHAT. It is a pleasure for me join you today to address some of your concerns regarding unfair and excessive regulatory enforcement issues that you as a small business may face.
From : Cindy Ramos-Davidson
Location : El Paso , Texas
Question :
What is the most effective form of access to your office that we can share with our buisnesses when they need to inform you about an issue?

 

Reply :
www.sba.gov/ombudsman is our web contact; our phone number is 202-205-2417.
From : Tom Jessop
Location : Detroit Lakes , MN
Question :
Recently we submitted our final application for HubZoneZ certification. It's now been almost 2 weeks and I a curious to know when will we receive our notice? thank you

 

Reply :
The appropriate SBA office is Hub ZOne Office. Please contact Marianna Pardo at 202-205-2985
From : Herman Nyamunga
Location : Philadelphia , PA
Question :
What is the first thing yo can do if you are a vectime of excessive and unfair federal regulatory enforcements?

 

Reply :
File a comment form with the Office of the National Ombudsman at www.sba.gov.ombudsman or call 202-205-2417.
From : DeNise Gore
Location : Centreville , VA
Question :
Will the huge, unrestricted procurements that are usually awarded to large businesses, include a requirement for subcontracting 5% of the contract value to WOSB's? If so, will your office enforce it?

 

Reply :
SBA, in collaboration with federal agencies, sets procurement goals for Women Owned Businesses as well as other targeted groups; however, we have no enforcement powers if these goals are not met.
From : Alice French
Location : Chantilly , VA
Question :
What agency will enforce wosb's getting their regulated share (5%) of unrestricted contracts. This is being asked in light of contracting history with small businesses who have been used in solicitation responses but not after the award. I do not mean to sound negative, but regulations in these circumstances, quite often get ignored. Thank you

 

Reply :
Hello, Alice. If you feel that there has been some improper or unfair regulatory enforcement issue in a federal agency, you can file a comment form from our National Ombudsman web site...www.sba.gov/ombudsman.
From : Jules Arntz-Gray
Location : Toronto , Ontario
Question :
Is there any consideration given to the burden placed on business from multiple regulators doing inspections? Do different agencies coordinate their inspections on a specific business?

 

Reply :
As I meet with federal agencies, I stress the importance of the burden that excessive regulatory enforcement places on small business owners. I will continue to make this point; however, I am sure that it is extremely difficult for multiple agencies to coordinate their inspections across the country, especially since each agency has its own mission and responsibilities.
From : Indu Anand
Location : ,
Question :
In what way(s) does the national ombudsman help protect a small business from unfair regulatory nforcement? And what should be regarded as "excessive and unfair" regulatory enforcement anyway?

 

Reply :
If you feel that you have been subject to unfair or excessive regulatory enforcement actions by a federal agency, you can file a comment to our office and we will contact the agency to as for a high level review of the complained about activity within 30 days; we will contact the small business and inform the business of our action and tell the business that we will forward the reply from the federal agency to them whenever it is received.
From : Karina Ramirez
Location : Denton , Texas
Question :
What are some key steps small business owners need to take before filing a complaint about a unfair enforcement action?

 

Reply :
Before you submit a comment, make sure that you are able to provide a short, written explanation of your situation, citing specifics and providing copies of any citations, letters, orders, fines, penalties, correspondences or other details that should be sent along with the comment. This information will enable us to submit a thorough comment and a timely one.
From : Suzanne
Location : Tacoma , WA
Question :
How can a small business make it with such huge penalties, late fees, interest??? And from ALL the government agencies all at once?? We are not making it as it is, and to throw thousands of $ on top of the already HIGH tax rates is causing us to lay off 80% of our work force before the end of November. That is 30 people.

 

Reply :
I certainly understand your frustration. One way to possibly have federal regulatory penalties and late fees reduced or eliminated that you feel are unjust or excessive is to file a comment form with the Office of the National Ombudsman's office. You can access the form to file a complaint at www.sba.gov/ombudsman. Once you complete the form requesting a penalty or fine reduction or elimination and send it along with accompanying supportive information, our office will contact the Federal agency expressing your concern and request and asking for a reply to the request within 30 days.
From : Stephen Greene
Location : Lowell , MA
Question :
Question follows introductory statements. Small businesses who sell to companies in the EU have a variety of significant product environmental requirments that must be met. The GSA is developing Greenhouse Gas reporting requirments that will impact their 600,000 suppliers in the future. The SEC is developing Conflict Mineral reporting requires which may trickle down to small private companies who sell to reporting companies. Sustainability is becoming a core business requirement. What is the SBA doing to help small businesses manage and profit from these requirments?

 

Reply :
Please contact GSA and SEC to have them explain their reporting requirements. GSA has an office of small business within the agency; perhaps the staff within the agencies can be of help in addressing your question.
From : Kenneth Knapper
Location : Newport News , Virginia
Question :
How can we as Business Consultant assist you in getting facts out on what your office is trying to do to better inform the business environment of your efforts.

 

Reply :
Thank you for this offer. Please refer businesses who need help from any SBA office to our SBA.gov web site. Specific offices can be located on the site.
From : Janet Bennett
Location : Findlay , Ohio
Question :
This solicitation is advertised as a small-business set-aside. However, critical stipulations of the Statement of Work and instructions for the proposal are fundamentally biased toward large entities. The most extreme of these include: Section B and Attachment J1 – The contract , to our understanding, historically has been cost plus for large businesses, is now fixed management fee and fixed rates for small businesses still wobbling from the recession. Section C – The SOW imposes a management infrastructure of operational, technology and reporting requirements that is consistent with large scale government contracts, while the contract value has been nearly halved (Solicitation amendment 001). This jeopardizes the small business contractor’s opportunities to recover the investment required to truly meet the scope of work. Further, there is no assurance that the $37 million cap is adequate to cover mobilization and the scope of work for the transition and first-year. The entry costs of replicating this management infrastructure is the leverage of the incumbent large firm. Section L 10 – The Format and Instructions for Proposal are geared for first tier federal contractors with an inventory of boilerplate and standardized responses, and a dedicated staff to grind out a submittal exceeding 500 pagers in the 30-day timeframe. Section L 13 – Contracts of “similar size, scope and complexity” have historically been awarded to large firms by the Treasury Department, so by definition small businesses cannot represent such experience except by association in the role of subcontractors. We are a small 8A/Hub Zone that has worked on the contract for 5 years and just submitted bid. It was unfair the cost plus for large and firm fixed for small business.

 

Reply :
This question seems better suited for the Office for Federal Procurement Policy and or FAR Council, both deal with federal procurement policy matters. The web site is www.whitehouse.gov/omb/procurement
From : Raul Espinosa
Location : Jacksonville , FL
Question :
The procurement think tank at the University of North Florida (UNF), operated by the Fairness in Procurement Alliance coalition of 34 small business groups, would like to engage the National Ombudsman on an effort to establish a 'Legal Center' in the private sector which would assist all legitimate efforts to eliminate such 'barriers' to contracting as: 1. ‘retaliation against contracting watchdogs’ 2. ‘unfair end-user justifications’ 3. ‘an ineffective size protest system’ 4. ‘regulatory exemptions’ without statutes and 5. ‘misreporting of government contracts by Federal Agencies,’ Is the National Ombudsman inclined to support such a meaningful effort in the private sector and if so, how? (background material is being supplied through email communication.)

 

Reply :
ONO has no legislative authority to support private or public projects. Our mission only deals with regulatory enforcement concerns as they relate to Federal agencies.
From : Robert Felty
Location : Virginia Beach , VA.
Question :
As a former Contracting Officer for both the Navy & Nasa and for three small businesses, I have witnessed tragic and down-right ugly abuses of the 8(a) program by ANC's. It must stop or at least be made to adhere to the $3m and $5m contract ceilings of the other 8(a) program participants. Obviously, many large contractors have learned to manipulate this single-source system to their advantage; like CDSI! Real small business firms cannot hire lobbies to make "deals" worth billions of dollars. Can you, Ms. Vassar, help the 99.9% of the real small businesses in the entire United States overcome this distortion? Thank you.

 

Reply :
As you know, this is an issue currently being dealt with in the media. This is an issue that must be dealt with legislatively, and, as you know, SBA does not write legislation.
From : Tyrone Miller
Location : Lancaster , PA
Question :
I am having more that $500,000 in payments withheld until DCAA can conduct a review/audit of my accounting system on a labor hours contract. I have been told by a former DCAA auditor that this should not be done. Is he correct?

 

Reply :
As a small business owner, if you feel that your business has been treated unfairly because of a regulatory enforcement action, you can file a comment to the Office of the Nationall Ombudsman at www.sba.gov/ombudsman
From : Bill's Auto Clinic, William Bowland
Location : Hamilton , MT
Question :
I want to submit a price quote for repair work for a local Federal agency fleet manager. They want me to prove or certify that I am a small business before they will accept my quote. It's just myself, my son and one employee. What do they have to have to prove that my quote came from a small business? What should I have to give them to certify that I am a small business? It seems that I have to give them more and more paperwork; it keeps changing. I was in Dun/Bradstreet, then something called the CCR and now they want more, something new called ORCA. It's a $5000 job. Is all this necessary? Thank you.

 

Reply :
SBA does not certify but allows self certification; however, other agencies may have other certification requirements. ORCA is an online certification
From : Isaac E. Imaghodor
Location : Birmingham , Alabama
Question :
Please, how will be able to find money from SBA to start my business going? Over a year now that I purchased a four units building that was to be used by Veterans as Community Boarding Home but unable to get money.Tell me how and where to got this help. Thanks.

 

Reply :
I suggest that you check with HUD or VA offices. SBA does not loan money; we guarantee loans made through lending institutions. You might consider going to our web site (sba.gov) and researching the type of loan programs that we guarantee.
From : U.S. Small Business
Location : Washington , D.C.
Question :

 

Reply :
Thank you all for chatting with me today. I have enjoyed talking with you and hearing about the challenges that you face as a small business owner. I and my staff are here to serve you when you feel that you have experienced unfair or excessive regulatory enforcement from a federal agency. Additionally, we will attempt to direct you to appropriate offices within SBA if we cannot address your problem, which was the case with some of you today. I hope that we have been of service today. Our web site is www.sba.gov/ombudsman and our phone number is 202-205-2417. Thank you and I wish you all successful business! Esther Vassar