8(a) Social Disadvantage Narratives: What SBA is Looking For

Writing a social disadvantage narrative for application to SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program can be tricky. While SBA’s regulations can guide your pen, they are not the only source of helpful information out there. Let’s take a look at some SBA guidance and recommendations based on SBA’s actual decisions that may increase your chances for success.

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SBA Area Office Double Counted Revenue in Denial of 8(a) Application, Says OHA

SBA sometimes makes mistakes in the 8(a) application process, but the appeals process may be able to remedy those miscues. Recently, an applicant appealed the SBA’s denial of her 8(a) status based on net worth. She argued that the SBA Area Office had double counted the value of her rental property, which automatically disqualified her from being found economically disadvantaged. SBA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) agreed and remanded the denial decision.

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SBA Didn’t Properly Justify 8(a) Termination, Says Court

SBA’s regulations provide that an 8(a) program participant that no longer is owned or controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged person can be terminated from the 8(a) program. But the decision to terminate is not one to be made lightly: SBA must make sure that it not only has evidence in support of its termination decision, it must also explain how that evidence demonstrates its conclusions.

This requirement was at issue in a recent court decision that found an SBA 8(a) program termination decision to be based on “numerous erroneous assumptions” and “unsupported conclusions, not substantial evidence.”

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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: “Honest Mistake” Not Grounds For Termination

An honest mistake made in a company’s 8(a) Program application may not support termination of the company from the 8(a) Program.

In a recent decision, the SBA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals held that the SBA could not validly terminate an 8(a) participant for submitting false information in the 8(a) application because the SBA had not considered whether the 8(a) participant honestly, and reasonably, believed that she was not required to report the information.

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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: Switch To LLC Leads To Termination

A participant in the SBA’s 8(a) program must obtain the SBA’s prior approval before switching its business structure–or else.

Case in point: recently, an 8(a) participant was terminated from the 8(a) program because it switched its corporate structure from a corporation to a limited liability company without the SBA’s prior approval.

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