By Global Services on June 26, 2020
Since the appearance of COVID-19, government agencies have refocused to meet the unique challenges of the health crisis. From providing safety guidance to the public, to providing funds for struggling families and Small Businesses (SBs), agencies have responded quickly to meet the new needs of the American people.
To best support agencies in this effort, the General Services Administration (GSA) has stepped up to the plate, creating COVID-19 buying guides for agency partners; implementing Market Research as a Service (MRAS) initiatives to connect industry partners with buyers; providing free training to contractors, especially SBs, on federal procurement needs; and, as members of the Federal Acquisitions Regulations (FAR) Council, working to increase access to essential goods and services for agencies.
Earlier this month, the GSA Federal Acquisition Services (FAS) Team, featuring Administrator Emily W. Murphy, hosted GSA Presents: Advancing Small Businesses During Unprecedented Times, a two-day town hall discussion to share how their agency has helped federal, state, and local partners meet their missions during COVID-19, as well as open a dialogue on how GSA and their partners can provide a better understanding of the COVID-19 procurement environment to SBs.
What Products/Services are GSA and Other Agencies Buying?
COVID-19 has changed purchasing priorities for all agencies, as the health and safety of the workforce is now threatened by the virus. As agencies approach third quarter spending and consider how to safely reopen facilities, they are looking to procure health screening services (on-site temperature checks, health screening questionnaires, and documentation); touchless technology (automatic doors, bathroom appliances, hand sanitizing stations, etc.); Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (masks, gloves, etc.); at-work signage (safety warnings following guidelines implemented by the CDC); filters and filtration services for facilities; and contract tracing technology (apps, cellphone tracking software).
GSA has a high demand for these products, as they not only own, operate, and lease approximately 9,600 federal agency facilities, but also support the other agencies in procuring emergency goods and services. As of early June 2020, GSA has performed 16,000 contract actions for their agency partners, accounting for roughly 63% of all federal contractual activities in response to COVID-19. So far, GSA has facilitated the purchase of protective gloves; cleaning wipes; masks/face shields; disinfectant and cleaning solutions; hand sanitizer; Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs); laptops (to accommodate teleworking needs); and beds and cots for agency needs.
Murphy predicts the demand for such products and services will only continue to grow, as the pandemic requires the U.S. to operate under new safety requirements.
How Is GSA Enhancing SB Opportunities?
When the pandemic hit, GSA had already been overhauling its acquisition processes for the last year and a half. The previous 24 Federal Supply Schedules were consolidated into a single, streamlined Schedule. This eliminated redundancy and simplified Schedule use for both government buyers and contractors. As a result of these changes, contractors could more quickly add new products and services to their Schedules, allowing government buyers faster access to a wider range of necessary solutions.
Since the release of the Consolidated Multiple Award Schedule (MAS), roughly 80% of contractors on Schedule have successfully consolidated their offerings.
In addition, GSA and their agency partners took a number of steps last year to quicken the acquisition process, such as increasing the Micropurchase Threshold (from $3,500 to $10,000) and the Simplified Acquisition Threshold (from $150,000 to $250,000), a huge win for SBs and their government customers.
Since the appearance of COVID-19, GSA has pushed for exceptions to the Trade Agreement (TAA) Act and the Buy American Act to accommodate emergency purchase activities through the FSS Program. GSA has also expanded their Disaster Recovery Purchasing Program to State and Local Governments, allowing agencies to quickly acquire supplies and equipment under all SINs through their ordering system, GSAAdvantage.
GSA reports that safety equipment has been mostly purchased from SBs, which hold 66% of COVID-19 related contracts and account for 41% of all federal dollars spent.
GSA continues to monitor the interest of industry partners to provide crucial items, such as through their recent PPE Sources Sought, which remains continuously open.
GSA and their Office of Small Business and Disadvantaged Utilization (OSBU) continue to work with the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), and Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) to craft plans for how best to promote and unburden SBs in the government contracting field (through new GWACs, FSS Program adjustments, and the simplification of SB Certification processes).
How Can SBs Support GSA and their Agency Partners?
As agencies look for support from their industry partners during this time, the MAS Program remains a crucial tool for procuring emergency products and services as quickly as possible.
In response to COVID-19, GSA is urging all contractors to consolidate their Schedule offerings, to modify their contracts with new products/services (if applicable), and to reach out to GSA’s COVID-19 Emergency Acquisition team at firstname.lastname@example.org and their assigned Contracting Officer to learn how best to rapidly provide emergency products and services.
If your businesses has yet to obtain a GSA Schedule, consider pursuing a Schedule of your own, or participating as a subcontractor to existing Schedule holders.
Outside of the FSS Program, GSA still needs insight on industry’s ability to provide a variety of products to meet their partner’s needs (surgical masks, toilet paper, trash bags, etc.). If your business provides these products, respond to the open RFI to help GSA shape upcoming acquisitions and to let them know how your firm can help with these urgent needs.
If you need assistance obtaining or maintaining your GSA Schedule to best support the federal government during COVID-19, please reach out to our team of GSA experts today!