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  • By Steve Barr
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, May 16, 1999; Page 15

    Many small technology companies in the region do business with the federal government; since 1997, it has taken steps to ensure that information technology systems it buys are certified as "year 2000-compliant."

    The most important of these steps were changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulation, the primary guide used by government agencies when buying goods and services. Vendors selling to the government must ensure that their automated equipment can process dates and times correctly after Dec. 31. Companies selling "noncompliant" technology must provide upgrades or fixes before Dec. 31, the Y2K procurement rule said.

    For the most part, the government's Y2K regulations have been directed internally and not at forcing companies to achieve specified standards of compliance.

    But there have been some exceptions, such as the Y2K requirements placed on doctors and hospitals who file Medicare claims. To ensure that Medicare claims are paid promptly and accurately after Jan. 1, the Health Care Financing Administration required at the beginning of this year that health care providers submit their electronic claims with eight-digit date fields.

    Almost every federal agency has conducted "outreach" efforts to inform small businesses, state, local and tribal governments about the year 2000 problem.

    For example, Congress passed and President Clinton signed in April the Small Business Year 2000 Readiness Act, which provides guaranteed loans to companies that need money for the repair or purchase of new software and hardware.

    Small Business Administration chief Aida Alvarez said congressional estimates show that the agency will be able to make about $500 million in loans over a two-year period. "We think it's terrific we have these measures," Alvarez said. "We hope it will cover any conceivable contingency."

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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