He Never Saw Himself as Disadvantaged. Then the Government had Him Write an Essay. -Julian Mark (Washington Post)

I am incredible honored by the shout-out I received in this recent, powerful Washington Post article, by the talented Julian Mark. Mark also wrote the prior article including my statements about the 8(a) Program litigation and changes that took place last summer, which you can read about here. This second article covers the incredible story of 8(a) Program graduate, Curtis Joachim, and my work with him in drafting a successful social disadvantage narrative to remain in the program for his final year—a requirement (now) for all applicants and participants imposed by Federal District Court and implemented by SBA. I am so fortunate I had the opportunity to work with Curtis and so grateful for his strength and grace in sharing his inspiring story.

SBA Certify Portal Applications to be Paused

If you have ever looked into socio-economic certifications through the SBA or “set-asides” as some call them, you undoubtedly have run into SBA’s certify portal. It certainly is a big part of the small business federal contracting landscape, with likely massive numbers of site visitors a day. However, it will soon be updated, causing a pause on new applications very soon.

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Back to Basics: 8(a) Program Economic Disadvantage

When it comes to SBA’s many small business socioeconomic certification programs, the 8(a) Business Development Program is often considered SBA’s “golden child”–as its potential benefits are nearly endless. But it certainly wouldn’t be a “golden child” at all if just anyone could get into it. The 8(a) Program has some of the most extensive and strict requirements out there. In this post, we’ll dig into the basic components of one of those requirements: economic disadvantage. But don’t fret, this post is worth a read for our experienced 8(a)-ers and those just learning about the program. For the former, the information below can serve as a refresher on the basics of economic disadvantage–but also, a source for SBA’s most recent economic disadvantage thresholds (as of 2024, as these are updated periodically for inflation). For the latter, we suggest reviewing these basics of economic disadvantage along with our other Back to Basics blogs on the 8(a) Program (this one discussing the program, generally, and this one discussing all the rules for eligibility).

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SBA Proposed Rule: Make WOSB, SDVOSB, and 8(a) Regulations More Consistent

If you ask any small business federal government contractor or their attorney for the top complaints about the regulations that apply to the Small Business Administration, inconsistency between the various programs is likely to show up on that list. At first glance, it seems the requirements are pretty standard across the board. However, when you dive deeper, you’ll likely notice that even though the requirements are similar, there are enough small differences in the language you can’t just assume that, say, a requirement for service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) is going to be the same for a woman-owned small business (WOSB) or an 8(a) Program participant.

The differences make it crucial to look at the specific regulations for the specific SBA program to ensure compliance. You can’t just assume that they are the same. Thankfully, it looks like the SBA has finally heard our cries for consistency with a recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, in which it attempts to align the WOSB Program with the new SDVOSB/VetCert Program and the 8(a) Program. And, as an added bonus, the beginnings of what appears to be a plan to make the WOSB certification process a bit easier if your business is already certified under either the 8(a) program or the SDVOSB program.

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Webinar! Small Business Certifications, March 20, 2024, 10:00-11:00 am CDT

Please join federal government contracts attorneys Nicole Pottroff & Greg Weber for this informative webinar on SBA certifications hosted by Catalyst Center for Business & Entrepreneurship. Participants will get an overview about the Small Business Certifications including:

  • Woman Owned Small Business and Economically Disadvantaged Woman Owned Small Business
  • 8(a)  Business Development Program
  • HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone)
  • Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business

We will discuss how to get certified, how long it may take, regulations, changes, updates, and tips and tricks on how to be prepared. Please Register here.

8(a) Program’s Two Years in Business Rule: Requirement or Suggestion?

It is no doubt that the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program is a first-class program: there is a reason that some of us around here tend to say that it is one of the most important of federal government contracting programs. And in the past year, there has been a flurry of activity surrounding the 8(a) Program. For the most part, this uptick in activity has had to do with the requirement that all applicants prove they are socially disadvantaged in light of the the Ultima decision that we’ve discussed on the blog. As you may know, applicants must also prove that they are economically disadvantaged, though the requirements to qualify as such are a little more objective. But then there is the requirement that the applicant firm must be able to prove that it has the potential for success. Today we take a closer look at the potential for success requirement’s two year business revenue rule, and delve into whether there is any way around it.

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SBA’s 2023 Update: Demonstrating 8(a) Social Disadvantage

SBA recently issued new guidance on how to demonstrate social disadvantage–one of the elements an individual must meet to be eligible for SBA’s illustrious 8(a) Business Development Program. The guidance implements a streamlined social disadvantage narrative format–limiting the number of social disadvantage instances to two and asking only for direct answers to six questions for each instance. The “new” format really just hones in on the elements SBA has always asked for 8(a) social disadvantage narratives to demonstrate, substantively, not changing a thing. Nevertheless, SBA has been quite firm in requiring this new, short and sweet, structured format–so let’s dig into it a bit.

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