The Miller Act (1935) is a federal law that requires contractors performing public work projects (additions or general repairing of any governmental building or public works facilities) to obtain a performance bond as well as a labor and material payment bond in any contracts that exceed $100,000.
Why Does the Miller Act Exist?
Since government construction projects are unable to protect themselves from non-payment with a traditional lien, the Miller Act was created to protect the subcontractors as well as the suppliers when dealing with projects owned by the federal government. The corporate surety company that is willing to issue these two bonds must be registered as a qualified surety by the United States Department of Treasury, which is issued on a yearly cycle.
The Little Miller Act
In addition to the Miller Act, there is a Little Miller Act that includes state specific statutes across the country, which are based on the federal Miller Act. You can take a look at each state's Little Miller Act requirements here.
How Do Performance and Payment Bonds Work?
The requirement of the payment bond is to protect public money by guaranteeing payment from the prime contractor. It takes the risk off of the shoulders of the subcontractors and placing it directly onto the surety company that has issued the bond. Subcontractors as well as the suppliers of material for the project who have a direct binding contract with the prime contractor are protected by the Miller Act. Other subcontractors as well as material suppliers who have contracts with the subcontractors contracted with the prime contractor are also protected under the Miller Act. Any other parties who find themselves outside of these two tiers of contracts are considered too distant to make a claim against the payment bond. If you would like to learn more about what surety bonds are and how they work, you can read our detailed guide here.
Performance bonds also protect the government, guaranteeing the completion of the project that has been awarded. Generally, the amount that is required to satisfactorily protect the government by the contracting officer is one hundred percent of the total contract price. You can take a look at the most frequent surety bond related questions.
Want to Learn More About Contract Bonds?
If you'd like to learn more about how contract bonds work (bid bonds, performance bonds, maintenance bonds, etc.) you can visit our website, which includes comprehensive guides about how these various bond types work, and how you can obtain them.