The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has published a proposed rule to amend its regulations to implement a statutory requirement to certify Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses (EDWOSBs) participating in the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business Program, under which those businesses can be eligible for set-aside and sole source awards.
The WOSB Federal Contract Program, set forth in section 8(m) of the Small Business Act, 15 U.S.C. 637(m), authorizes contracting officers to restrict competition to eligible WOSBs or EDWOSBs for federal contracts in certain industries. The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act amended the Small Business Act to allow for sole source awards to WOSBs and EDWOSBs. In addition, the 2015 NDAA amended the Small Business Act to create a requirement that a concern must be certified as a WOSB or EDWOSB (by a federal agency, a state government, SBA, or a national certifying entity approved by SBA), in order to be awarded a set aside or sole source contract under the WOSB Federal Contract Program.
The proposed rule would permit an entity to be eligible for award under the program as long as its application is pending. If that offeror were selected for award, its application would be prioritized by SBA and a determination would be made within 15 days. This provision acknowledges that SBA may have difficultly processing all the potential applications in a timely manner, given the approximately 10,000 firms currently in the WOSB repository. The anticipated influx of applications from these firms would likely overwhelm the SBA, which processes approximately 3,000 applications a year for 8(a) status and 1,500 a year for HUBZone status.
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