In response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) has relaxed procurement rules and regulations to facilitate purchases from VA federal supply schedules (“FSS”). On March 20, 2020, the VA National Acquisition Center (“NAC”) informed all VA FSS holders that, based upon the President’s invocation of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 5121-5207 (the “Stafford Act”), state and local governments, territories, and tribes have full access to VA FSS contracts. See Presidential Declaration of National Emergency COVID-19 – State and Local Government Ordering Procedures.
Thus, even if a contractor did not elect to participate in Disaster Recovery Purchasing at the time of contract award, contractors are now permitted to accept any orders by state and local governments. However, whether to accept any state or local government order is voluntary not mandatory.
Five days earlier, the VA advised its contracting officers of emergency acquisition flexibility available pursuant to Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) Part 18 for their use to expedite the delivery of critical goods and services. See Emergency Acquisition Flexibilities – Emergency Assistance Activities in support of Global Pandemic for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Perhaps the most significant easing of procurement regulations is the increases in procurement thresholds. The VA announced that for purposes of responding to the Coronavirus National Emergency, the Micro-Purchase Threshold (“MPT”) is increased to $20,000 and the Simplified Acquisition Threshold (“SAT”) is increased to $750,000. In addition, the threshold for simplified procedures for the acquisition of certain commercial items is increased to $13 million. Currently, the threshold increases remain in effect until June 30, 2020. With these increases, fewer FAR clauses and competition requirements apply when contracting officers are making awards. Notwithstanding the relaxation of procurement requirements, the VA confirmed that the Veterans First Contracting Program, which includes the Rule of Two, still applies. The Rule of Two requires the VA to set aside procurements for veteran-owned small businesses (“VOSBs”) or service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (“SDVOSBs”) when market research indicates that two or more such entities would submit offers, assuming the award can be made at a fair and reasonable price.
In addition, the VA informed contracting officers that, in certain circumstances, the competition requirements in FAR Part 6 are relaxed. However, the VA reminded contracting officers that prior to using less than full and open competition, they should first determine whether the required services and supplies are available under GSA’s Disaster Relief and Emergency Preparedness Schedules on GSA Advantage. In addition, contracting officers also should use existing Blanket Purchase Agreements (“BPAs”), FSS contracts, or Indefinite-Delivery Indefinite-Quantity (“IDIQ”) contracts.
Assuming VA contracting officers follow agency guidance, VA FSS holders should be a, if not the, primary source of supplies and services for VA hospitals and other medical facilities to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Some tips for FSS holders and traps to avoid can be found on our blog in GSA Federal Supply Schedules Contracts and the Coronavirus: Risks and Rewards.
As COVID-19 issues permeate virtually all aspects of commerce nationally and internationally, we stand ready to help. Blank Rome’s Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) Task Force includes interdisciplinary resources across every business sector from insurance recovery to HR.