WCOE 2021 Legislative/Regulatory Highlights
December 30, 2021
Recognition of WCOE as a Leader in Washington Grows as WCOE Gets Results
WCOE Elevates the Concern of WCOE Members in Private Interview with SBA Administrator by Former WCOE President Theresa Kern
Answering a question about the SBA Procurement Scorecard, Ms. Guzman acknowledged how important tracking is in closing the opportunity gap. Ms. Kern, noting that the contracting goals set in 1996 for the WOSB program have been met only twice and that more needs to be done. WCOE members will be able to watch the full interview on the WCOE website. WCOE will work closely with SBA and other agencies to see that women-owned construction and construction-related companies are full participants as the Administration, agencies, and state and local governments roll out the funding for infrastructure projects across the nation.
WCOE Scores a Win: SBA Announced Elevation of the Office of Women’s Business Owners (OWBO) to Report Directly to Administrator
WCOE has been actively advocating for more focus on women-owned construction firms by the federal government and believes this change is a big step forward in helping WCOE members who still face discrimination in both the federal and private marketplace. Repeatedly, in letters and testimony to Congress and in comments to agencies, WCOE has reiterated, that social and economic barriers remain. This action does reflect increased attention by SBA and the Biden Administration on women business owners and shows recognition of the fact that women-owned business are still disadvantaged. The Administrator has committed to an increase in the small business contracting goals for WOSBs in the
WCOE Testifies at Small Business Hearing on Contracting and Infrastructure: Still Face Obstacles and Discrimination
Marking the progress WCOE has made to elevate the voice of WCOE, we were invited to testify at a Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Infrastructure hearing on the importance of utilization of small contractors in the infrastructure plan. WCOE’s witness was WCOE President Sheila Ohrenberg. Her testimony encouraged Congress to enact a bold infrastructure bill and emphasized that women continue to face discrimination in winning contracts in both the public and private sector. She reminded the Subcommittee members that the WOSB program has reached its contracting goals only twice since the program was implemented in 1996 (in 2015 and 2019). The testimony advocated for increased goals in the WOSB program with incentives for agencies to reach those goals, encouraged Congressional support to revitalize the Interagency Committee on Women’s Business Enterprise to ensure more effective coordination of agency resources for women business owners, and suggested more transparency and changes to the SBA Procurement Scorecard and more! WCOEUSA is doing its part to advocate for WCOE members in Congress and at the agencies. Your voice has never been more important as we advocate for women and gender equity in the industry.
WCOE Wins Long-Sought Exemption From Indexing Increases for Miller Act
In the 2022 National Defense Authorization (NDAA) Act signed into law, included a long-sought-after permanent exemption for the Miller Act from indexing increases for the threshold. This is something WCOE worked on with the CIPC, Construction Industry Procurement Coalition. This means small contractors and subcontractors continue to have payment protections on federal projects at the $150,000 level.
WCOE Instrumental in Introduction and Promotion of Meng/Duckworth ICWBE Bill: Legislation to Renew Inter-Agency Focus on Gender Equity and Gaining Contract Awards
Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) and Representative Maria Salazar (R-FL) introduced a bill (H.R. 3875) with bipartisan cosponsors to revitalize the Interagency Committee on Women’s Business Enterprise (ICWBE). As an association supporting women in the industry, WCOE recognized this legislative initiative could be key to agency focus on barriers, resources, and solutions for women-owned businesses. WCOE Legislative Committee Chair, Lee Cunningham, was quoted in Ms. Meng’s press release. Lee stated, “Revitalizing the Interagency Committee will renew a focus on the importance of women in business. Representative Meng’s and Salazar’s bill would ensure resources from key departments and agencies are being used effectively, and it would make sure that the Interagency Committee can carry out its mission to support women-owned businesses.” Senator Duckworth (D-IL) introduced a corresponding bill in the Senate also with bipartisan cosponsors. WCOE urges you to contact your Representative and Senators to cosponsor this important legislation. We will be advocating for this legislation at the Washington Summit!
WCOE Gains Wider Recognition for Women in the Industry: Participates in Industry Podcast
Another hallmark of the strides the association has made in Washington, WCOE was asked by the head of the American Subcontractors Association (ASA) legislative shop to participate in a podcast during Women in Construction Week. You can listen to an interview by ASA’s Legislative Director, Mike Oscar, with WCOE’s President Sheila Orhenberg, Sorella Group, and Dana Thompson, WCOE’s Washington Representative as he probes the key to success and growth of women in what continues to a maledominated industry. This followed WCOE’s invitation earlier in the year for Dana Thompson to participate in a post-election analysis by construction industry “Washington Insiders.”
WCOE Legislative Team Pushes for Stronger Voice for Women:
Through Grassroots Efforts and Coalition Building
- Almost a dozen Washington Updates keeping WCOE members up-to-date on federal legislative and regulatory activities. This includes notifying members about Paycheck Protection Program changes and expansions and deadlines as well as legislative on the move that increases infrastructure spending.
- Reviewed and Updated WCOE Legislative and Regulatory Policies, presented to WCOE National Board, and shared in the membership Washington Update
- Initiated Memorandum of Understanding with HUBZone Council and presented to National Board
- Maintain alliances with the Construction Industry Procurement Coalition and others on broad industry issues
- Reminder to WCOE members to contact their Congressional Delegation on issues of importance.
WCOE Advocates for Congressional and Regulatory Action to Benefit Women & WCOE Businesses
- Advocated successfully for reintroduction of Interagency Committee for Women Business Enterprise (ICWBE) H.R. /S. and quoted in Congresswoman’s press releases.
- Sent letter for the record to the Small Business Committee hearing on SBA Management Review: Office of Government Contracting and Business Development with recommendations for transparency and accountability for programs designed to help women entrepreneurs.
- Submitted comment letter to Chief of SBA Size Standards Division on proposed size standard changes for two NAICS codes with additional comments on other reforms to ensure that women-owned construction industry firms participate in, contribute to, and succeed in any economic recovery.
- Sent letter to House and Senate urging House passage of Equal Pay legislation.
- Submitted comment letter to SBA Office of Government Contracting and Business Development with recommendations regarding the NAICS Disparity Study.
- Supported Senate passage of the House-passed ERA bill.
- Supported House-passed bill to require corporate reporting on gender composition on boards of publicly traded companies. Has tried unsuccessfully to get a law similar to a very successful California law requiring certain companies, according to size, to include women on their boards.
- Supported Small Business bills that would increase capital access and make cybersecurity reforms to help small businesses stay safe, informed and compete for federal contract awards.
- Advocating for the re-introduction of the SUBS Act, to fight Bid Shopping by requiring Bid Listing on certain federal procurement contract bids.
- Pursuing legislation action on changes to the SBA Procurement Scorecard for more transparency and accuracy.
- Pursuing Changes to the SBA Procurement Scorecard through the legislative process and the agencies.
WCOE Fights for Procurement Reforms and Broader Construction Policy Issues
Construction Industry Procurement Coalition (CIPC): WCOE works with CIPC on a variety of construction contracting issues that will benefit WCOE members. There is clout in numbers and this coalition, representing tens of thousand of firms, promotes common sense procurement reforms. This group is an important part of the work WCOE does on Capitol Hill. CIPC organizations, for instance, advocate for Change Order Reforms which would require an immediate 50% payment for change orders when authorized and completed and also an expedited process for final payment — mportant to WCOE businesses because cashflow is especially important to women-owned businesses who face inequity in getting credit.
WCOE Jointly Signed Letters:
- Senate/House Armed Services Chairs & Ranking Members: Urging them to include language in the National Defense Authorizaton Act(NDAA) that would clarify Cyber Security certification requirements and to exempt the Miller Act from threshold increases due to indexing for inflation. Raising the threshold would mean many small construction industry contracts would not have payment and performance bond protections.
- Support for the Senate-passed Infrastructure and Jobs Act: This would create jobs across the industry and would provide women-owned firms work through DBE programs, small business set-asides, and WOSB programs.
- Successfully urged House and Senate leaders to support final passage of the Surface Transportation Act. Any instructure spending will help construction industry-related firms move on the from the pandemic downturn in the economy.
- Helped draft and signed on to comments to the FAR Council regarding the proposed rule to prohibit the use of reverse auctions in the procurement of construction services. WCOE and CIPC had been successful earlier in passing legislative language requiring the FAR to act.
WCOE Outreach Never Stopped Despite Pandemic: ZOOM, Email, Phone Calls Kept Congress and Agencies Focused on WCOE Issues and Priorities
SBA: Maintaining and Growing Relationships in Republican and Democratic Administrations
Administrator Guzman knows & works with WCOE—appreciates WCOE support for her nomination Government Contracting and Business Development Office – to promote WOSB/Set-aside program Office of General Counsel – To Reform Procurement Scorecard/offered to speak at WCOE Summit
DOT: Office of Small Business Development Zoom Meeting and Email
More information and contacts about the DBE Program and the DOT Procurement Forecast
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Office of Small Business Programs
Continuing a relationship begun with the WCOE Legislative Team & Board Deputy Director eager to address WCOE members
Key figure working to help solve under-utilization of WOSB program
Congress and Key Committees
Developing wider recognition for WCOE and women’s industry issues across party lines
WCOE Members Voices Add Powerful Impact to Legislative Advocacy
Yes, Members of Congress will take some of every year to spend time with their families on vacation, but they also will be hosting town hall meetings (in-person, by phone or virtual), attending community events, and visiting with constituents. It is a time you can raise WCOE and women’s issues important to you. There has never been a time when it has been more important to talk about gender equity and the inclusion of women-owned small businesses and WDBEs in any mandates associated with infrastructure bills. Reach out to members of Congress however you can: by calling local, district offices,
the U.S. Capitol at 202.225.3121, or by using social media!
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