These changes are the result of the first comprehensive review of the program published today in the Federal Register.
The 8(a) program supports socially and economically disadvantaged firms develop their business and provides them with access to government contracting opportunities, allowing them to become solid competitors in the federal marketplace. It also provides specialized business training, counseling, marketing assistance and high-level executive development to its participants.
Changes will affect some components of the program including:
– Joint Ventures – qualifying that 8(a) firms are required to perform a significant portion of the work to ensure that these companies are able to build capacity;
– Economic Disadvantage – providing more clarification on economic disadvantage as it relates to total assets, gross income, retirement accounts and a spouse of an 8(a) company owner in determining the owner’s access to capital and credit;
– Mentor-Protégé Program – requiring that assistance provided through the Mentor-Protégé relationship is directly tied to the protégé firm’s business plan;
– Ownership and Control Requirements – providing flexibility in admitting individuals of immediate family members of current and former 8(a) participants;
– Tribally-Owned Firms – seeking public comments on the best way to determine whether a tribe meets the criteria of being economically disadvantaged for the 8(a) program;
– Excessive Withdrawals – amending regulations on what is considered excessive as a basis for termination or early graduation from the 8(a) program;
– Business Size for Primary Industry – requiring that a firm’s size status remain small for its primary industry code during its participation in the 8(a) program.
The public comment period on the proposed changes is open for 60 days. Given that, small businesses may submit comments on or before December 28, 2009, to www.regulations.gov, where they will be posted or mailing them to 409 3rd St. SW, Mail Code: 6610, Washington, DC 20416 or via e-mail at: 8aBD2@sba.gov.