UPDATE: SBA Opens Certify Portal for Social Disadvantage Narrative Uploads by Current 8(a) Participants Not Pending 8(a) Award

As we have previously written about in several recent 8(a) articles and updates, which can all be found on our 8(a) landing page here, SBA had previously told all 8(a) participants not pending an 8(a) award to “sit tight” and wait for the go-ahead to submit their social disadvantage narratives. Well, according to SBA’s just-released Certify Help Desk Guidance, it appears that go-ahead was just given to all the (justifiably) anxious 8(a) participants out there hoping to confirm their continued 8(a) Program eligibility as soon as possible.

If you are one of our loyal blog readers, you are already well aware of SBA’s new requirement for all individually-owned 8(a) applicants and participants to now demonstrate their social disadvantage via a social disadvantage narrative–even those that had previously qualified for the rebuttable presumption of social disadvantage based on membership in one of SBA’s designated groups. These SBA actions are the direct result of the recent decision in the Ultima case out of the Federal District Court out of the Eastern District of Tennessee, which you can read all about here.

SBA’s swift reaction to the Ultima decision and injunction, unfortunately, came with a lot of uncertainty for all 8(a) applicants and all 8(a) participants not currently pending an 8(a) award, as the 8(a) application and certification portal, Certify.SBA.Gov, was essentially closed for any narrative submissions. SBA has still been requesting, accepting, and prioritizing social disadvantage narratives from any active 8(a) participants currently pending 8(a) awards–obviously, trying to minimize the immediate impact of the Ultima decision and recent 8(a) Program changes on our federal agencies, need for supplies and services, and economy. As such, those 8(a) Program participants were promptly contacted by their Business Opportunity Specialists (BOSs) about drafting and uploading their social disadvantage narratives on a very short timeframe. But all the while, SBA was essentially just advising all other 8(a) applicants and participants to get their narratives drafted as quickly as possible–not to wait–but also, to “sit tight” for further instructions on how to actually get those narratives to the SBA.

This has, understandably, caused some concern and panic in the 8(a) community given that everyone previously accepted into the 8(a) Program based on the rebuttable presumption of social disadvantage is basically now “pending” eligibility until their narratives are both submitted and approved. While some of that uncertainly remains, specifically for new 8(a) applicants, it at least looks like the next step in SBA’s implementation of the Ultima decision is underway: the acceptance of narratives from current 8(a) Program participants who are not pending current 8(a) award from a federal agency.

As you can see from the Certify Help Desk Guidance SBA just released, for all those who are already in the 8(a) Program but now needing to submit their social disadvantage narrative to stay in the program, SBA has just opened the door for those submissions. And SBA’s recent guidance has also assured everyone of what we already suspected, which is that the sooner you can submit your narrative, the sooner your narrative can be reviewed and approved, and the sooner you can confirm your 8(a) eligibility for future awards and opportunities through the program. So, best bet is to get moving on your narrative drafting and submission as soon as possible. Keep an eye on our blog for updates regarding new 8(a) applications, as we assume that accepting new applications will be the next step by SBA once they prioritize those with pending awards, followed by those already in the 8(a) Program.

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