On May 11, 2020, the U.S. Small Business Administration ("SBA") published its long-awaited final rule amending its regulations for the Procurement Program for Women-Owned Small Business Concerns (the "WOSB Program"). We previously discussed SBA's proposed rule here.
Specifically, the final rule implements a certification requirement for small businesses who want to compete for WOSB Program set-aside contracts, sole source contracts, and awards under multiple award contracts for pools reserved for WOSBs and Economically Disadvantaged WOSBs. To that end, WOSBs and EDWOSBs seeking certification to the WOSB Program will have three options: 1) certification from the SBA, 2) certification from certain government entities, and 3) certification from an SBA-approved third-party certifier.
Notably, SBA's final rule brings needed consistency between the WOSB Program and SBA's 8(a) Program's economic disadvantage requirements. Previously, a small business seeking both EDWOSB status and certification to the 8(a) Program concurrently could be found economically disadvantaged for the former but not the latter. SBA fixed the "confusion and uncertainty" this caused in the final rule––once effective, both EDWOSB and 8(a) Program certifications will have consistent thresholds: $750,000 net worth, $350,000 gross income, and $6 million fair market value. In addition, SBA also excluded retirement accounts from calculations of an economically disadvantaged individual's net worth (regardless of age).
Interestingly, while the final rule becomes effective on July 15, 2020, a number of the changes will become effective on October 15, 2020. SBA anticipates that it will begin issuing certification decisions on October 15, 2020.
SBA's WOSB Program Website
Besides publishing the final rule, it appears that SBA also updated its WOSB Program website with new information consistent with the final rule. SBA's website provides that, when the rule is effective on July 15, 2020, "the certification process for [WOSBs] and [EDWOSBs] will begin to change as SBA implements Congress’ changes to the [WOSB Program], as put forth in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)." Further, SBA also notes that when the final rule goes into effect:
SBA will provide a new, free online certification process for WOSBs and EDWOSBs.
SBA will allow participation from firms certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Center of Verification and Evaluations, provided they meet all eligibility requirements.
SBA will allow continued participation from businesses that utilize approved Third Party Certifiers (TPC) to obtain WOSB or EDWOSB certification.
SBA will eliminate the current self certification option from certify.sba.gov, effective October 15, 2020.
Currently, there are four SBA-approved third-party assessors. Small businesses who want to obtain a third-party certification should contact them directly about the process.
Interestingly, to accommodate small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, SBA has also provided important information on timelines:
The current self certification process will remain available for firms until October 15, 2020, in certify.sba.gov.
Between now and July 15, 2020, certified WOSBs must download their documentation, currently housed in the WOSB Program Repository, from certify.sba.gov.
On July 15, 2020, firms can begin submitting applications under the new certification process for initial processing.
On October 15, 2020, SBA will begin issuing decisions on certification.
Lastly, small businesses are reminded that SBA will provide further instructions for the new WOSB Program certification process sometime prior to July 15.
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