The Small Business Act provides assistance to small and disadvantaged businesses. Section 8(a) of the act helps these businesses compete, both in the private market and for government procurement contracts. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), the types of support offered by the program include mentoring, procurement assistance, business counseling and training services as well as financial and management assistance.
The SBA recently revised the program and issued a final set of rules regarding the program’s operation. This is the first comprehensive revision in over a decade, and it’s geared toward making the program more efficient and effective by increasing opportunities for the businesses that participate and reducing waste and fraud. The SBA issued the rules in February 2011. They went into effect on March 14, 2011.
The changes affect a number of program areas. For example, the new rules require that 40 percent of the work awarded by each joint venture contract go to joint ventures that operate as 8(a) firms. The revision also clarifies the criteria that businesses must meet in order to be considered economically disadvantaged. The 8(a) Mentor-Protege Program is affected by rule changes as well. Mentors who fail to fulfill their responsibilities to their protégés will be held accountable through such measures as work stoppage.
Other rule changes allow flexibility in determining whether companies may participate in the program when their owners have immediate family members who also own 8(a) companies; require that tribe-owned companies submit reports showing how their participation benefits their communities; and mandate that companies remain small businesses within their industries as a requisite for participation in the 8(a) program.