Merkley Introduces Bill to Help Small Businesses in Hard-Hit Communities Add Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley introduced a bill to reduce the wait time for counties to benefit from a federal program that aids small businesses in hard-hit areas. There is currently a two-year lag time after the census is completed before metro areas can be designated HUBZones. 

 “Small businesses in affected counties have been struggling for a long time, and the HUBZone designation cannot come a day too early,” Merkley said. “Small businesses in struggling areas should not have to wait while bureaucrats shuffle paper.  This legislation will cut red tape and provide real benefits, faster, to those counties that have been hit the hardest.”

The HUBZone program helps small businesses in urban and rural communities gain preferential access to federal procurement opportunities. The federal government has a goal of awarding 3% of all dollars for federal prime contracts to small businesses in HUBZones.

Senator Merkley’s bill cuts red tape and speeds up the process of HUBZone designation for counties.  The bill accomplishes this by: 

  • Requiring the Department of Housing and Urban Development to designate Qualified Census Tracts (QCT) as soon as they receive the data from the Census Bureau – within two months – instead of holding onto that data for ten months.
  • Requires the Small Business Administration to set the effective date for QCT HUBZones for as soon as possible – no more than three months – after QCTs are designated.
  • Requires the Small Business Administration to produce a report to the House and Senate Small Business Committees identifying any problems with the current HUBZone census tract designation and any recommendations for improving the process.

The current delays mean the counties that qualify for HUBZone status – including Deschutes County – will have been waiting for two years to receive their formal designation. Senator Merkley’s bill would shave almost an entire year off that application process and bring new business opportunities to communities in need.