Today, the SBA issued major proposed rule changes to the HUBZone program. This is the first comprehensive revision to the HUBZone rules since the program’s implementation nearly 20 years ago, and the changes are intended to improve the predictability and stability of the program for participants.

In general, to qualify as a HUBZone firm, the firm must have its principal place of business located in a HUBZone (historically underutilized business zone) and 35% of their employees residing in one or more HUBZones.  The advantages of being a certified HUBZone small business are enormous.  Not only do HUBZone firms qualify for HUBZone small business set-aside contracts, they also qualify for a 10% price preference against non-small business offerors on unrestricted procurements (FAR 19.1307).  The problem, however, is that the HUBZone map regularly changes due to changes in economic data (though Congress recently issued a partial freeze to the map until SBA is able to update the zones following the 2020 decennial census), and in many industries a firm’s ability to maintain a 35% HUBZone-resident workforce is heavily dependent on the location of the contracts it wins.

SBA’s proposed rule changes would make it significantly easier for contractors to maintain their HUBZone status once certified.  Among the most significant changes are:

  • An individual will continue be treated as a HUBZone resident if that individual worked for the firm and resided in a HUBZone at the time the concern was certified or recertified as a HUBZone small business concern and he or she continues to work for that same firm, even if the area where the individual lives no longer qualifies as a HUBZone or the individual has moved to a nonHUBZone area.
  • Certified HUBZone firms would only be required to do annual recertification, rather than immediate recertification at the time of every offer for a HUBZone contract award. A HUBZone small business concern would then represent that it is a certified HUBZone small business concern at the time of each offer, but its eligibility would relate back to the date of its certification or recertification, not to the date of the offer. This would allow certified HUBZone small businesses to remain eligible for future HUBZone contracts for an entire year, without requiring it to demonstrate that it continues to meet all HUBZone eligibility requirements at the time it submits an offer for each additional contract.

Stay tuned for more on these proposed rule changes in the coming weeks and months.  Comments to SBA on the proposed rule changes are due Dec. 31.