SBA Finalizes Rule Adopting Changes to Contracting Program for Women-Owned Small Businesses

Changes to Contracting ProgramAn interim final rule published in the Federal Register and effective immediately will amend regulations to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program allowing for greater access to federal contracting opportunities for women-owned businesses. This is the result of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA) signed in January.

The interim final rule removes the anticipated award price of the contract thresholds for women-owned small businesses (WOSB) and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSB). Instead, this will allow them greater access to federal contracting opportunities without limitations to the size of the contract.   The rule can be accessed at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-05-07/html/2013-10841.htm and comments can be submitted on or before June 6, 2013, at www.regulations.gov, identified by the following RIN number:  RIN 3245-AG55.

As a result of the rule change, contracting officers will be able to set aside specific contracts for certified WOSBs and EDWOSBs at any dollar level. This will help federal agencies achieve the existing statutory goal of 5% of federal contracting dollars being awarded to WOSBs. The SBA is currently working on the changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulations.

Prior to the rule change, the anticipated award price of the contract for women-owned and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses could not exceed $6.5 million for manufacturing contracts and $4 million for all other contracts.

Every firm that wishes to participate in the WOSB program must meet the eligibility requirements. Also, either self-certify or obtain third-party certification. There are four approved third-party certifiers that perform eligibility exams. These are the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Women Business Owners Corporation, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. Additional information and links about approved third-party certifiers are available at www.sba.gov/wosb.

To qualify as a WOSB, at least 51% of the ownership and control of the firm must be by one or more women. Additionally, this should primarily be under the management of managed by one or more women.  The women must be U.S. citizens and the firm must be small according to SBA size standards.  To be deemed “economically disadvantaged,” a firm’s owners must meet specific financial requirements set forth in the program regulations.

The WOSB Program identifies eighty-three four-digit North American Industry Classification Systems (NAICS) codes where WOSBs are underrepresented or substantially underrepresented.   Contracting officers may set aside contracts in these industries if the contract can be awarded at a fair and reasonable price. Also, if the contracting officer has a reasonable expectation that two or more WOSBs or EDWOSBs will submit offers for the contract.

For more information on the Women-Owned Federal Small Business Contract Program, please visit www.sba.gov/wosb. You may also access the instructions, applications, or database on the said website.

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