Somewhat Appealing: Which SBA Certifications Can You Appeal From?

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) runs four socioeconomic programs aimed at providing equal opportunity to participate in federal contracting. And one would think that all of them have similar options if a contractor is denied certification. One would be wrong. SBA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) recently dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction, showcasing the different options in the various programs. The contractor was decertified from the Women Owned Small Business Program (WOSB). Its owners ran afoul of an important distinction in OHA’s appeals jurisdiction, particularly the substantial difference between appealing a competitor’s protest of a contractor’s SBA certification and the government’s initial denial of a program certification. This provides an excellent opportunity to assess the regulatory differences in appellate jurisdiction between the four programs, with an eye toward successfully navigating future encounters with the OHA.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to our law clerk Will Orlowski for his immense help in drafting this post.

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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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SBA OIG Report Shows Improvements in 8(a) and Woman-Owned Small Business Programs

The Small Business Administration Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently released its report discussing the top management and performance challenges facing the SBA in 2024. The report highlights a number of issues currently plaguing the SBA and its various programs, including abuse of economic relief programs, disaster assistance programs, and loan programs, cyber security shortcomings within the agency, and oversight of grant management. The report also notes concerns with the HUBZone and small disadvantaged business programs. However, today I want to focus on the issues identified in two programs that we at Koprince McCall Pottroff work with day in and day out: the Woman-Owned Small Business Program and the 8(a) Business Development Program.

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FAR Updates: Size Protests for Orders, Rules for 8(a) Follow-On Contracts

The FAR Council has released updates that will impact a couple aspects of small business contracting. One is that contractors can now file size and socioeconomic status protests for certain types of orders, under strict timelines. Second is that agencies must notify SBA when they seek to remove certain contracts from the 8(a) Program. While these rules were present in some form in SBA rules, they are now firmly ensconced in the Federal Acquisition Regulation as well. Below, I discuss the highlights of these rules as well as any differences from the SBA rules.

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SBA and Industry Leaders Reaffirm Support for 8(a) Program in Light of Recent Judicial Attacks

This week, the SBA published a press release affirming its continued support of its 8(a) Business Development Program in response to recent 8(a) Program attacks in the courts. In the press release, business industry leaders across the nation joined SBA Administrator, Isabella Casillas Guzman, in praising the 8(a) Program, its successful history, and its driving policy and spirit.

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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.

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SmallGovCon & Koprince McCall Pottroff LLC Announce the 8(a) Contractors’ Toolkit

To keep federal contractors apprised of recent decisions affecting the 8(a) Program, we are launching the 8(a) Contractors’ Toolkit. The goal is to provide relevant and useful information for government contractors about eligibility, contract requirements, and best practices. We are here to help federal contractors navigate the rapidly changing waters of the 8(a) Program.

Check back regularly as we cover various topics bearing on federal contractors currently participating in or hoping to gain entry into the 8(a) Program. We will regularly and promptly update the site to keep our readers informed of all updates, clarifications, and guidance regarding the 8(a) Program, as they are released.

We understand that things may feel a bit uncertain and overly complex in the 8(a) Program at this time. Our greatest hope is that this collection of specific information on the current changes to the 8(a) Program and social disadvantage narratives will guide contractors in drafting their narratives, but we are also here to help anyone who needs assistance. More information is available at this link.

If you are needing legal assistance, please reach out at info@koprince.com or call 785-200-8919.