On April 8, 2020, the Department of Defense (“DoD”) issued a Class Deviation authorizing contracting officers to use a new cost principle – DFARS 231.205-79, CARES Act Section 3610 Implementation – to permit the reimbursement of certain leave-related costs incurred by contractors in accordance with Section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Pub. L. 116-136). Additional clarification regarding the application of the new cost principle was issued on April 9, 2020, through the publication of a “living” FAQ document intended to answer critical questions for contractors. While the FAQ information does not clarify the Government’s position on all potential issues associated with the implementation of Section 3610, it does provide a blueprint that contractors seeking reimbursement should follow.
On April 8, 2020, a final rule (the Rule) was issued amending the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) and implementing Section 852 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2019 to provide for accelerated payments to DoD’s small business prime contractors and subcontractors supporting DoD contracts. The Rule applies to contracts at or below the simplified acquisition threshold (SAT) – currently $250,000 for DoD contracts – and to contracts for the acquisition of commercial items including commercially available off-the-shelf (COTS) items. With an estimated 96% of DoD contracts valued at or under the SAT, the rule appears to reflect DoD’s recognition that it is in the best interests of the government and small business contractors alike to apply this Rule to contracts at or below the SAT and to accelerate payments to small business prime contractors and subcontractors.
FEMA Seeks All Comers to Supply Government with COVID-19 Supplies
Through its website, the Federal Emergency Management Association (“FEMA”) is encouraging the private sector to step up and support the agency in its response to COVID-19 in a variety of ways. In pertinent part, the website solicits donations of medical supplies and equipment, refers businesses with nonmedical good and/or services that can help the response to the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) Procurement Action Response team, and provides guidance to hospitals and healthcare providers in need of medical supplies.
In a Class Determination and Findings (CD&F) published on April 3, 2020, the GSA’s Senior Procurement Executive directed that certain limited supplies to combat the COVID-19 virus identified in the CD&F may be acquired without regard to the domestic preference restrictions imposed by the Trade Agreements Act (TAA) and the Buy American Act (BAA) clauses included in the GSA Schedule and GSA individual procurements. The Senior Procurement Executive concluded that waivers of the domestic preference restrictions were warranted based on scarcity in that the supplies were deemed “temporarily unavailable in sufficient quantity or satisfactory quality” or not “mined, produced, or manufactured in the United States in sufficient and reasonably commercial quantities of a satisfactory quality.”
On March 31, 2020, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment issued a memorandum attaching a class Commercial Item Determination (CID) promulgated by the Defense Contract Management Agency Commercial Item Group (DCMA CIG) identifying as commercial items specific products and services needed by the Department of Defense (DoD) to address the COVID-19 pandemic (Memorandum). The Memorandum is specifically intended to “allow contracting officers maximum flexibility” in awarding critical contracts for supplies and services needed for the DoD to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The Memorandum is expected to facilitate the award of “urgent commercial item procurements,” and the class CID is specifically “limited to the information pertaining to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.”
As most federal contractors know all too well, the United States Government is not always an easy customer. This is particularly true in circumstances where a contractor encounters performance impacts and seeks to recover increased costs and/or endeavors to secure a schedule extension. The Government’s negotiating posture in response to these types of requests is seldom inviting.
This week, the State of Hawai`i instituted some of the most sweeping emergency orders in the country in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For tourists, tourism, federal employees, federal contractors, and the millions of island residents, this means a very different kind of stay while in paradise.
As most government contractors are aware, progress payments are a form of contract financing in which the Government pays the contractor based on cost throughout performance of the contract, up to a cap dictated by the terms of the contract. On March 20, 2020 – “in response to the Coronavirus Disease” – the Department of Defense issued a Class Deviation to contract clauses DFARS 252.232-7004 and FAR 52.232-16, the effect of which is to increase the progress payment rates to 90% for large business concerns and 95% for small business concerns – an increase of 10% and 5%, respectively – from the customary progress payment rates established by DFARS 232.501-1. The Class Deviation provides that the change is to remain in effect until rescinded.
On Friday, March 20, 2020, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued Memorandum No. M-20-18, titled “Managing Federal Contract Performance Issues Associated With The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).” The Memorandum, directed to the heads of all Executive Departments and constituent federal agencies, provides key guidance on maintaining continued contract performance while respecting the need to protect the safety of the contracting community during this unprecedented time. The critical aspects of the Memorandum, accompanied by a contractor “To Do” list, are as follows:
The spread of the COVID-19 virus and the unprecedented steps taken by federal, state and local authorities to contain it by shutting down or significantly altering normal business operations pose great challenges to government contractors in meeting the needs of their universal customer, the U.S. Government. Work spaces are closed. Supply chains are disrupted. Key employees may no longer be available to oversee critical operations – both on and off U.S. Government installations. Here are some proactive measures that contractors can take now to avoid loss and to maximize the potential of obtaining new business opportunities created by the expected exponential increase in government spending: