8(a) Program: SBA Final Rule Makes Important Changes

The 8(a) Program regulations will undergo some significant changes as part of the major final rule recently released by the SBA, and effective August 24, 2016.

Here at SmallGovCon, we’ve already covered big changes to the SDVOSB Program and HUBZone Program brought about by the new SBA rule.  But the 8(a) program is affected by the new rule too, and important changes involving eligibility, the application process, sole source awards, NHOs, and more will kick in later this month.

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8(a) Program Participation Down 34% Since 2010

Participation in the SBA’s 8(a) Program has declined from about 7,000 firms in 2010 to only around 4,500 today–a sharp drop of approximately 34% in only six years.

These startling numbers come from a recent SBA Office of Inspector General report, which focuses on whether the SBA properly documented the reasons for admitting certain 8(a) participants.  While that matter is interesting in its own right, the most revealing part of the SBA OIG report is the rapid decline in 8(a) Program participation, and the SBA’s plans to reverse it.

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8(a) Program Denial: Federal Lawsuit Available, Says SBA OHA

An 8(a) Program applicant may challenge the SBA’s denial of its application in federal court if the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals lacks jurisdiction to hear the case.

According to a recent OHA decision, although OHA’s own jurisdiction in 8(a) denial matters is limited, a rejected applicant “is not utterly without recourse” because relief can be sought in court.

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8(a) Program: Accent, Lack of English Proficiency Not Evidence of Bias

A Bulgarian immigrant’s thick accent and lack of English proficiency were not evidence of bias, and did not support the immigrant’s 8(a) Program application.

In a recent 8(a) Program decision, the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals expressed sympathy for the language difficulties many immigrants face, but held that such difficulties, by themselves, do not constitute evidence of “social disadvantage” for 8(a) Program purposes because the 8(a) Program requires a showing of bias or prejudice.

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8(a) Fraudster Hit With 42-Month Prison Sentence

A federal judge has sentenced a Maryland man to 42 months in prison for fraudulently obtaining contracts under the 8(a) Program.

According to a Department of Justice press release, after Vernon J. Smith III serves his prison sentence, he will be subject to three years of supervised release.  And on top of the prison sentence, the federal judge ordered Smith to pay more than $7 million in restitution and forfeiture.

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Women 8(a) Applicants Don’t Need “Smoking Gun” Evidence Of Bias, Says SBA OHA

A woman does not need to provide the SBA with “smoking gun” evidence of bias in order to be considered socially disadvantaged for purposes of her company’s application to the 8(a) program.

In a recent decision, the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals sharply criticized the SBA’s evaluation of a woman-owned small business’s 8(a) application, holding that the SBA had improperly discounted evidence of bias, needlessly demanded that the woman provide irrelevant details, and made several other errors.

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8(a) Program: OHA Judge Slams SBA For Claim It Cannot Play DVDs

The SBA’s claim that it could not access information provided by an 8(a) program applicant in DVD format was “not credible,” according to a recent 8(a) program appeal ruling issued by the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals.

In Sunrise Staffing, SBA No. BDPE-499 (2013), the SBA OHA–in an unusually sharply-worded opinion–rejected the SBA’s excuses for not reviewing relevant information provided by the 8(a) program applicant, and granted the applicant’s 8(a) appeal.

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