DUNS Number Done
With Deadline Looming, Problems Persist Nearly a Year After the Transition to UEI
It makes sense that the United States Government would need to know who it is it’s doing business with, including providers of housing and housing services that receive federal money.
From 1978 to April 4, 2022, the DUNS number (issued by Dunn & Bradstreet, a private company), was means of entity identification for Federal awards government-wide. Today it’s UEI (Unique Entity Identifier) that’s the standard and UEIs are assigned by a government-run website, SAM.gov.
In short, whether DUNS or UEI, if vendors want to work with the federal government and get paid for it, they needed details of their business to be verified. Simple, right? Now it’s just go to SAM.gov, complete a few forms, and all is well, just with a new acronym.
There have and continue to be serious issues with the SAM/UEI system and, in some cases, this has resulted in a loss of income for vendors and some businesses have been removed entirely from the U.S. General Services Administration online system.
In November, there were as many as 50,000 companies and grantees waiting to fix validation issues.
Problems arise when the information in SAM.gov is not accurate. If a business does not match the system-generated legal name and address for its SAM registration, it will have to submit entity validation documentation of a particular kind and timeliness. This is true for new and existing SAM-registered entities and this problem has arisen because data rights prevent SAM.gov from using previously validated data.
Those most likely to face difficulties are:
- Businesses that have sustained name or address changes, mergers, or similar transactions
- Businesses with multiple SAM-registered physical addresses
- Foreign businesses
- Businesses whose address documentation is more than five years old
- Businesses with unregistered operating names
Some examples of simple problems that took weeks for SAM.gov to manually fix include having an extra space on the other side of an ampersand or the absence of the additional four digits at the end of a company’s zip code.
The Government Contracts Legal Forum has reported that new and existing SAM-registered entities that cannot find a system-generated match to their legal name and associated physical address will be required to submit entity validation documentation, as will entities changing names or addresses.
GSA requires validation documentation to be of a certain type and include both the legal business name and current physical address on the same document, says Government Contracts Legal Forum. This documentation must be less than five years old, be of a certain type, and provide the state and date of incorporation or organization.
Companies have a limited time to submit sufficient documentation before SAM will close the validation submission or help ticket.
How Might This Impact Multifamily Housing?
If you own or manage any HUD or USDA Rural Development property that receives project-based rental assistance, be aware that HUD published Notice H 2023-01 on January 26, 2023, saying that failure to have an up-to-date UEI can damage your ability to receive subsidies for the property. The memo states, “When a contract comes up for renewal, the owner must have an active UEI in order for HUD to renew.” TRACS release 203A, which is expected to be released in 2023, will remove DUNS number fields and replace them with fields for UEI numbers. This means the UEI must always remain current.
Denise Murphy Edwards, the founder and CEO of Murphy Consultants and well-regarded expert on HUD’s online systems such as APPS and EIV, has fielded questions from clients on the UEI issue.
“The main company needs a UEI and any associated limited partnership does, too,” she says. “It can be like a labyrinth. [The application process] becomes more complex if you have multiple partners, an LLC, or LP.”
When applying for a UEI, the SAM.gov system populates certain fields with suggestions it thinks match what an applicant is typing. These suggestions can be wrong. “If you find a suggestion that matches, you’ve hit gold,” Edwards says. But if you don’t and you enter information that does not comport with what the government has, you may be entering a Kafkaesque world.
“If the information doesn’t match, you get caught in a loop that you won’t get a UEI until you are verified,” Edwards says. “And we don’t know where this information comes from.”
Straightening things out can take long time to resolve and since a company cannot get paid without a UEI, there can be financial pain for the business, clients, and employees.
But what about reaching out to a person at SAM.gov? A help desk worker or something?
“There’s nobody to call,” Edwards says. “We don’t know how to fix it.” Nevertheless, Edwards has a few suggestions for applicants.
“Be very deliberate with everything you enter,” she says. “Stepping backward and fixing it is difficult. If you get to a screen that says you are a particular entity and you are not, don’t click.”
“The main company needs a UEI and any associated limited partnership does, too,” adds US Housing Consultants’ Managing Partner/Founder Scott Precourt. “It can be like a labyrinth. [The application process] becomes more complex if you have multiple partners, an LLC, or LP.”