U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kit Bond (R-Mo.), and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) recently introduced legislation to help local businesses stay afloat during times of recession and high unemployment. The Rebuilding Local Business Act creates a temporary three-year HUBZone “Rebuilding Status” for counties that have an unemployment rate of 20 percent above the national rate during a recession, ensuring that the program is more flexible and responsive to changing economic conditions.
“While the HUBZone program works as intended when the national unemployment rate is low, it falls short when a recession wreaks havoc,” Merkley said. “By tweaking the HUBZone program during a recession to include high-unemployment counties like Deschutes, Jackson, and Columbia, we can save jobs and help local businesses keep their doors open.”
The HUBZone program allows businesses within a designated HUBZone area to apply for preferential consideration for federal contracts. Since the designation of HUBZone areas relies mainly on census data, some counties that currently qualify for the program must wait for census numbers to be updated until they can be considered. Unfortunately, this only occurs every decade. And the program currently requires HUBZones to have unemployment rates of 40 percent above the national average, which means that even counties with a 13 percent unemployment rate are not eligible, since that level is not currently 40 percent over the unusually high national rate.
The Rebuilding Local Business Act of 2010 corrects these problems during a recession by:
• Temporarily changing the data source for county eligibility from census data to Bureau of Labor Statistics data during times of recession. BLS statistics on county unemployment rates are compiled and released monthly.
• Temporarily lowering eligibility levels from 40 percent above the national unemployment rate to 20 percent above the national rate.
The bill has been endorsed by the HUBZone Contractors National Council.