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How Contractors Can Get Disaster Cleanup Work During 2021 Hurricane Season

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Updated June 7, 2021, to reflect the most current information.

Another above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1, is predicted for this year.

That could lead to high demand for debris cleanup and reconstruction, and an opportunity for contractors to provide much-needed services. But being in a position to provide those services takes careful, advanced planning before a disaster strikes.

“It’s always better if a company gets ahead of a disaster,” says Cindy Carrier, program manager for the Louisiana Procurement Technical Assistance Center. “Because sometimes when the disaster happens, things are happening so quickly.”

And the government entities, like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, that are seeking contractors for post-disaster work require registration within their procurement systems. “If you have to register with FEMA and get on their database … sometimes they’ve already let a contract while you’re still trying to register,” Carrier says. 

Jane Dowgwillo, program manager for the Florida Procurement Technical Assistance Center, says her office quickly gets swamped after a hurricane strikes, with calls and emails from all over the country from businesses looking for contracting opportunities. They want to come right to the state and want to know where they should go.

“Back up, you need to get prepared,” she says. “You really need to be properly registered before you even think about it.”

How to get prepared

Both Carrier and Dowgwillo say the first step for any contractor looking to perform disaster-response work should be to contact their state’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center. That’s true even if the work is in another state. Contractors can find their local PTAC by going to the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers website and clicking their state on the map on the home page. They will then get a list of centers and contact information.

There are more than 90 such centers around the country, in each state and in Puerto Rico and Guam. They are partly funded by the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency with the rest matched by state and local governments and nonprofit organizations. Many of the centers are on state university or college campuses, and there are more than 300 PTAC local offices.

Their services are free, including one-on-one counseling. Services include helping to register with the proper government procurement systems, as well as finding bidding opportunities and preparing proposals.

The PTACs also reach out to their counterparts in other states to help businesses find opportunities there. “So if it’s an Arkansas company, but the bid lead is coming from Louisiana, they’re still going to get it,” says Carrier. “They can meet with their Arkansas PTAC to help them with quoting it, or writing a proposal if they have to.”

Carrier says her office searches 3,500 websites each day for bid leads for clients. It uses keyword searches for the type of contracts the business wants, such as “debris removal.” Relevant leads are then emailed to the client.

“If our Louisiana-based companies say, ‘We can do business across the United States,’ then we’re searching all of the counties that are in all of those states,” Carrier says. “And then there may be small local governments that maybe post in a newspaper. So we’re looking for those opportunities as well.”

Federal contracts

After contacting a PTAC and setting an appointment with a counselor, the next step involves registering with the federal government’s System for Award Management (SAM).

SAM is run by the U.S. General Services Administration, and any contractor that wants a federal contract has to be registered in it. That includes performing work for FEMA or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which also handles debris cleanup after disasters.

The sam.gov site has become the GSA’s primary clearinghouse for government contracting, consolidating other sites into one. It has replaced FBO.gov and has merged beta.sam.gov information, which was being tested last year. It now has such resources as: entity registration, disaster response registry and contract opportunities.

The free SAM registration process can be tedious, and minor errors can cause delays, such as entering a slightly different company name than is listed with the Internal Revenue Service, Carrier says. The IRS is linked to the system to make sure companies registering are legitimate.

Though some for-profit companies advertise they can guide businesses through the process, PTAC counselors will help businesses register at no cost. Dowgwillo says the companies make claims to register clients in record time and land contracts. They charge $300 to $600 and some as high as $2,000 to $3,000. But she says they have no special “in” with the GSA.

“We, unfortunately, deal with a lot of disappointed people that have handed over their credit-card details and never get to see that money again,” she says.

SAM requires the following steps before registering:

  • Get a DUNS number. This is a unique nine-digit number that identifies each location of your business, according to Dun & Bradstreet, which provides the number. The number is free and can be obtained by clicking here. It will serve as your “unique entity identifier,” or UEI, with the federal government. The request takes about 10 minutes, and it takes about one to two days to receive the DUNS number.
  • Prepare your data. After getting the DUNS number, you will need these items to register: taxpayer ID number and taxpayer name, your Contract and Government Entity (CAGE) code if you already have one (If not, one will be provided after SAM registration.) and financial and banking information to set up electronic funds transfers.
  • Create a login.gov user account (if you don’t already have one). You will use that login.gov username and password every time you log in to SAM.gov. It also gives you login access to such government programs as federal benefits, services and applications. It takes a few minutes to create the account. It requires a state-issued photo ID to verify your identity.

After taking those three steps, you are ready to register on sam.gov.

During the registration process, indicate that you want to participate in the Disaster Response Registry. That way contracting officers can locate your information when performing a search of the registry.

Some SAM registrants may also be asked to provide a notarized letter to verify that the person filling out the registration represents the contractor. You will receive a request for this letter if it is required.

The process culminates in being assigned a five-character CAGE code by the Defense Logistics Agency, if you don’t already have one, to identify a specific facility at a specific location. It’s required for businesses to get paid for federal contract work. It takes about 10 days to become registered with SAM after submitting your information, according to its website, and another 24 hours for your registration information to be available in other federal systems.

There are other databases for federal contracts under $25,000 that PTAC will also help businesses register for and will monitor for them.

State and local contracts

One thing contractors should be aware of is that FEMA is required under federal law to contract with businesses located in affected areas when “feasible and practicable,” according to the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers. That can make it more difficult for contractors outside of the disaster area to win contracts, and all the more reason it pays to make plans before a disaster strikes.

Many states have their own contracting and procurement systems, which contractors will want to register for. Again, PTACs can help by contacting the PTAC in the state where the contractor wants to work to find out what steps are required there, Carrier says.

Insurance companies

Another place to check for disaster work is with insurance companies.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, most insurance companies maintain a list of approved private contractors that they share with their policyholders in a claim situation. These approved contractor lists are not shared with the public. Now is the time to get on these lists, assuming you meet each company’s qualifications.

To get on a list, the institute suggests contractors call the insurance companies and ask to be directed to the “property repair program” in the claims department. Each company will have its own requirements for insurance, bonding, etc.

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Government ‘playing politics’ with desperate refugees

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It is shocking that the RNLI has had to defend its very purpose this week: to save lives at sea, regardless of who those people are. It is an emergency service; if they didn’t act, people would die. Simple.

Refugees should not be having to risk their lives on overcrowded small boats to reach the UK in order to claim asylum. But the problem is not the RNLI who are only doing their job and it is not the asylum seekers themselves.

There is a bigger picture here and one which the home secretary is failing to acknowledge and respond sensibly to. We see this in her new borders bill, which she has chosen to introduce at a time when she knew the media would be fully focused on the plight of small boats in the channel.

I am angry by the way the plight of desperate refugees is being used by the government to stoke a culture war. I am angry that in the borders bill the government is seeking to answer questions that don’t exist whilst ignoring the glaringly obvious.

They are either stupid and can’t understand their own data – which I doubt – or they are really not bothered about stopping criminal gangs. They are more interested in playing politics for what they think will secure their red wall seats.

Let me be clear, the criminal gangs who profiteer from desperate people are abhorrent and we should work to stop them. But let’s take measures that will succeed and not just be good soundbites.

The home secretary announced last week that the UK will pay France a further £54m as part of a new agreement to stem the number of migrants crossing the channel. There will be more patrols and interventions to stop the small boats reaching British waters.

However, unless safe routes for asylum seekers to travel to the UK are increased in capacity and reach – to countries beyond Syria – further policing of the French beaches will not stop the smugglers. Make one route unviable and smugglers will find other, more dangerous routes; they don’t care for the safety of the desperate people they profiteer from.

The Home Office’s very own announcement of the new deal states that as French interceptions increased, criminal gangs have moved further up the French coast forcing migrants to take even longer, riskier journeys. Why they think this new plan will stop gangs, when people are still fleeing for their lives with pitifully few alternative safe routes, I have no idea.

There does seem to be a complete disengagement by government with the push factors for refugees, why people actually flee their homes in the first place. People are still fleeing for their lives, whether it be a political activist in Iran, a young person in Eritrea escaping military conscription or a family targeted by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Focusing purely on deterrents is wrong.

What we need is an ambitious plan for safe routes for refugees to come to the UK – we need a target for refugee resettlement of 10,000 people a year and for it to extend beyond the region of the Syrian conflict.

The government is rightly proud of the Syrian resettlement scheme – but we can’t live off this success – the current figures are pitiful at just 353 people in the year to March 2021. Without any ambition or target for resettlement going forward, the home secretary’s commitment to providing safe routes is just empty rhetoric.

We need a mechanism by which asylum seekers in Europe who have family in the UK can come here to have their asylum claim considered in the UK.

We need the scope of refugee family reunion policy to expand, to allow child refugees the right to bring their parents and siblings to join them in the UK, as well as allowing refugees to be joined by their dependent children over 18. These are the measures that will stem the demand for criminal gangs.

Priti Patel’s second strategy to stop people crossing the channel is to make it so awful here that asylum seekers will decide not to come. This approach has, as yet, to result in success. The hostile environment under Theresa May’s watch was meant to deter asylum seekers; instead it just made their lives more unbearable and we are here today with Patel declaring we need to be harsher still.

We are not inundated by asylum seekers, in fact 21% fewer people claimed asylum in 2020 than 2019 and, even before covid, numbers of asylum applications were nowhere near the high levels of the early 2000s. We have fewer than most other European countries; in 2020, the UK had 35,355 asylum applications, compared to Germany’s 120,320 and France’s 96,000.

Whilst safe routes are essential, they need to go alongside a fair and humane asylum system for those who make it to the UK by other routes.

The majority of those people who claim asylum are granted leave to remain in the UK, either by initial decision or following an appeal. The idea that the method of travel dictates the validity of the asylum claim is nonsense and deeply concerning that this is the underlying premise of the borders bill.

The UK resettlement scheme is only open to people fleeing certain conflicts – predominantly Syria. They are for those refugees who have additional vulnerabilities such as health. So, if an asylum seeker arrives in the UK via another route, it doesn’t mean they have jumped a queue; you can’t jump a queue you are not allowed to join.

It also doesn’t mean that they are not fleeing persecution – a fit healthy young man fleeing a regime because of his politics may not be classed as vulnerable, but he is still at risk as set out by the Refugee Convention, and can’t safely return home.

In any case, we have an asylum system to decide whether someone should receive refugee status – it should never be decided purely on method of travel – or whether they travelled through France or not.

Refugees who come to the UK will often say they feel they have a connection to the UK; through family and friends, through speaking English, or because they come from countries which have historical, colonial ties with the UK. The UK has a reputation for being a place where human rights are protected and freedom of speech is upheld.

Everyone wants to stop gangs, that’s not the issue. It’s right to work with European partners but let’s be grown up about it and be brave enough to look at the real causes and solutions and not the ones which fit the politics we want to promote.  By leading the way in making positive moves to support those fleeing their homelands we will earn the title of being a Global Britain.

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Long Scottish Covid lockdown cost Robertson £11.5m

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The firm extended its financial year by three months to June 2020 to absorb the three-month closure of the majority of its 100 construction sites in March of last year.

Extra costs, particularly from the extended lockdown to the end of June in Scotland, plunged the business into the red compared to a £16.7m trading profit the year before. Revenue also fell 10% to £637m over the extended period.

Robertson took nearly £3.9m in Government job retention payments to support workers. During the period from April to mid-June, around 1,100 staff were on furlough, with a gradual return to work through June and July.

The exceptionally challenging year saw net cash nearly halve to £34m.

Chairman Bill Robertson said the business had now returned to normal trading at target levels of productivity and profitability.

“With the current secured order book we are confident that the coming year will be a year of profit recovery as we adjust to new working conditions”

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Multiple Layers to the Inflation Watch Story

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There are two major questions overhanging the economies of the U.S. and Canada. (1) Will a reemergence of coronavirus infections, mainly among the unvaccinated and tied to the Delta variant of the disease, force a slowdown in what was proving to be exceptional gross domestic product (GDP) growth? And (2), the subject of this article, will rapid price increases compel the Federal Reserve and the Bank of Canada to move more aggressively on interest rates?

(more…)

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