SBA extends comment time for size rule

Extension of comment period

Small Business Administration officials have extended the public comment period on possible new rules governing small-business size. The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, published Dec. 3, 2004, followed SBA officials' withdrawal of a controversial proposed rule last summer.

Agency officials are trying to find ways to simplify the process by which businesses are certified as small. But some critics contended that the proposed rules would have made it easier for large companies to take contracts intended for small players.

SBA officials currently are seeking public comment on issues including the best way to simplify the system, whether temporary or contract workers should count as employees for size determination, the grandfathering of small-business eligibility and the establishment of tiered standards which would further separate larger small businesses from the smallest.

Comments can be submitted until April 3. The deadline originally was Feb. 1.

SBA officials have said they are trying to close loopholes that allow companies to manipulate the system. They also want to simplify the often-confusing system for determining a company's size. The agency's critics say that some of their recent proposals would make it easier for large firms to take billions of dollars in contracts meant for small business.

The idea of grandfathering businesses that have their small-business status changed by new regulations is troubling, said Lloyd Chapman, president of the American Small Business League.

He said he believes the extension of the comment period is an attempt by SBA officials to gain more support for grandfathering.

"Even the way they presented the proposal was designed to manipulate the results of the public comment," he said. "They did not ask the public if they should grandfather large businesses, they asked what approaches should the SBA use to grandfather."

In announcing the comment period extension, SBA officials said they have received many comments and many requests for more time to prepare and submit comments.

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