WASHINGTON --Three of the nation's leading Native American organizations are expressing collective concern over new regulations by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that could significantly impact Native Enterprise participation in the 8(a) Business Development Program and restrict benefits to distressed Native communities.
Native groups issuing joint reaction to the SBA's regulations include the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) and the Native American Contractors Association (NACA).
"The SBA consulted with Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations for several years during the development of these Native 8(a) regulations," stated Sarah Lukin, NACA's Executive Director.
"We applaud the SBA for communicating openly with our Native people throughout this process. The agency took its time and conducted multiple Tribal consultations across the country to hear from Native 8(a)s on this important issue. However, we are concerned that some of the SBA's regulations dramatically reform Native 8(a) and significantly impact the way Native Enterprises can operate and return meaningful benefits to their individual communities."
NCAI, NACA and NCAIED want to ensure the SBA's new restrictions do not reduce jobs and economic opportunities for Native people at a time when America's need to expand small business job growth has never been greater. "Native America has the highest unemployment rate in the country," stated Jackie Johnson-Pata, Executive Director with NCAI. "These regulations may be extremely painful for Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations, especially for those that are just now witnessing first-hand how 8(a) can transform their Native economies and otherwise have had few opportunities to improve their communities."
NCAI, NCAIED, and NACA stated that they will work with Native 8(a) enterprises to assess and comply with these rules. Native 8(a) businesses remain committed to delivering the maximum amount of benefits possible to Native communities through Native 8(a) participation, despite the new program limitations.
NCAIED's President Eric Trevan noted that Congress has already acted to restrict Native federal contracting. "Section 811 in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2010, which was signed into law and will soon be implemented through regulations, adds an additional layer of scrutiny on any large sole source contract to a Native 8(a)," Trevan stated. "Section 811 implementation, coupled with the SBA's broad, far-reaching regulations, have dramatically changed Native 8(a) and will have significant, long-term implications for Native enterprises in ways that have yet to be fully understood."
Native groups clarified their support for 8(a) reforms that position Native Enterprises and their communities for long-term success. "With poverty and unemployment rates twice the national average, Native people need jobs," Mrs. Johnson-Pata continued. "Native Enterprises have repeatedly proven themselves to be strong, reliable businesses that provide exceptional value to the federal government and their Native community members. Native 8(a) is an important part of building Native economies, especially given the current state of the U.S. economy and the unmistakable need of Native communities."
NCAI, NACA and NCAIED have publicly supported the need for greater federal oversight of government contracting and the 8(a) program, including Native 8(a). To this end, many of the SBA's regulations advance this important priority. The SBA's reforms increase protections to safeguard small businesses from large businesses and others who have preyed on them in the past and ensure that small business owners are receiving the benefits of the 8(a) program.
"Native 8(a) participation is working," Mrs. Lukin concluded. "It is building economies, creating jobs and generating opportunities in America's poorest communities. The new SBA regulations and Section 811 address the concerns raised in recent years about the program by increasing oversight, transparency, and reporting. Thousands of Native people have benefited from Native 8(a). Congress and the federal government should continue to honor its commitment to building Native economies, fighting poverty, and lifting up Native people by supporting Native participation in the 8(a) program."