Trenton – The state program requiring the set aside of a portion of contracts for businesses owned and operated by disabled veterans would be expanded and enforced, under terms of legislation authored by Senator Joe Cryan that was approved by the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee today.
The bill, S-2577, would increase from three percent to six percent the share of state contracts awarded to vets with service related disabilities and help enforce the required set-aside by allowing for “liquidated damages,” monetary compensation for breaching contracts.
“This program is not living up to its promise to disabled veterans,” said Senator Cryan, the chair of the Veterans Committee. “We have to do more and do better to make it work and give these vets the opportunities they deserve. These are men and women who carry the wounds of their service to our country. They have earned the right to take advantage of this program.”
The 2015 Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Set-Aside Program requires contracting state agencies to award at least three percent of their contracts to New Jersey businesses that are owned and operated by service-disabled veterans.
But, a recent report by the Garden State Initiative and the Veterans Chamber of Commerce found that only “a mere few” of the state’s 72 agencies with procurement power have awarded contracts to disabled vets and only two have fully complied with the law. Only an estimated 255 disabled-veteran businesses have even been certified for the program, according to the report.
The report called for the increase in set-asides and for the inclusion of liquidated damages as an enforcement mechanism. Under the bill, a prime vendor would have to make a good faith effort to find a qualified subcontractor to meet its set-aside obligation. The failure to do so could result in a monetary penalty.
Senator Cryan said that another way to get more contracts awarded is to lower the number of certified businesses required to bid on a contract from three to two. Legislation to make that change has been approved by the Senate Veterans Committee.
Senator Cryan encouraged qualified veterans to take advantage of the program, urged state officials to better inform vets that the program is available to them.
For interested veterans, the certification process begins with an application to the Uniform Certification Service: https://www.njportal.com/DOR/SBERegistry. All of the bid solicitations are posted at www.njstart.gov.
A disabled veteran-owned business is defined as a business that has its principal place of business in the State, is independently owned and operated, and at least 51 percent of which is owned and controlled by disabled veterans.
The committee vote was 4-0.