House passes small business assistance bill for Virgin Islands

The United States House of Representatives on Thursday passed the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) Small Business Contracting Assistance Act of 2018 (H.R. 5929), as Amendment 416 to the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

This bill was introduced by Representatives Yvette D. Clarke, Nydia M. Velázquez, and Stacey Plaskett to provide relief to the USVI in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which damaged or destroyed 90 percent of buildings in the islands.

Clarke, who represens the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, said the bill grants agencies the ability to double the value of contracts awarded to USVI small business concerns for purposes of small business prime contracting goals, four years after enactment. It also imposes a reporting requirement to track the number and amount of contracts awarded to eligible firms.

The bill further allows the government to transfer surplus property to small businesses with their principale office in the USVI for the duration of three years, Clarke said.

In addition, the bill allows the Small Business Administration (SBA) to grant incentives of a credit toward past performance ratings in the awarding of a contract for large prime contractors that mentor small businesses located in the USVI in the SBA’s Mentor-Protégé program, who award said protégé a subcontract, among other provisions, Clarke said.

“We owe it to the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands, who are themselves taxpaying American citizens, to do everything we can do help them in their recovery efforts,” Clarke said. “This bill, which I introduced together with Representatives Velázquez and Plaskett, marks one small step in that direction.”

Velázquez said: “It cannot be forgotten that the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands are American citizens and deserve our utmost support.

“This bill would incentivize federal agencies to employ contractors in the US Virgin Islands, fueling local economic growth and job creation on the islands when it is most needed. “I commend my colleagues, Congresswomen Clarke and Plaskett for their steadfast dedication to passing this measure and never giving up on the people of the U.S Virgin Islands,” she added.

Plaskett said small businesses are responsible for most of the job creation and innovation in the United States, and the Virgin Islands in particular.

“There is currently a relatively small number of contracts to small businesses in the Virgin Islands,” she said. “The procurement benefits provided by this amendment will help small business in the Virgin Islands and the territorial economy on its path to recovery.”

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