We read and hear a lot about helping those who need a leg up. There are many, and the reasons why are vast. Sometimes it’s easier to overlook those scenarios instead of taking action to implement positive change. But at some point, somebody somewhere must do something. Disadvantaged entrepreneurs and their small businesses are a great place to start. This is why the government implemented the 8A Government Contracts Program.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 38 million people, or 11.8 percent of the nation’s population, that live below the poverty level. Within that group often lies our disabled population. These individuals represent over 19 percent of the working age population. The latter tend to be underemployed and are more likely to accept part-time work when they would prefer full-time employment.
The Small Business Administration reported that while 12.2 percent of the general population chose self-employment, 14.3 percent of individuals from our disabled population started businesses. To clarify these percentages, there are more than 1.8 million business owners with disabilities in the U.S. They deserve the opportunity to be successful.
The percentage may be greater due to the roadblocks that this population endures when pursuing employment. Options are limited. Even if employment is obtained, workplace pressures, lack of accommodations, and prejudices may make it difficult to stay — much less excel.
Most often, our disabled community has a very strong work ethic and attention to detail. There have been numerous stories over the last several years of entrepreneurs with Down’s Syndrome or Asperger’s opening their own businesses. Some bake while others may be techies. Either way, they love what they do and need to make a living too.
The 8A Government Contracts Program
Fortunately, there are groups of individuals who are committed to facilitating those advancements. The federal government in particular has implemented a program intended to help the less fortunate.
One of those programs is known as the 8(a) program. This platform has been active for nine years. It provides assistance for firms that are owned or controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. The purpose of the 8(a) BD program is to assist eligible small, disadvantaged businesses that find it difficult to compete in the American economy. This “advantage” is obtained through business development.
The 8A government contracts program is also open to small businesses owned by Alaska Native corporations, Community Development Corporations, Indian tribes, as well as Native Hawaiian organizations. These small businesses experience development in various forms of financial, technical, management, and procurement assistance. Businesses that participate in the program receive both technical assistance and training designed to strengthen their abilities. This affords them a greater opportunity to compete effectively, if not fully in the professional realm.
The Small Business Association partners with federal agencies to promote maximum utilization of 8A government contracts program participants to ensure equitable access to contracting opportunities in the federal marketplace. This is huge! Once certified, 8A program participants are eligible to receive federal contracting preferences and receive training and technical assistance designed to strengthen their ability to compete effectively in the American economy.
To qualify for the 8A program, businesses must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- Be a small business. (Generally, 500 employees or less.)
- Can’t have participated in the 8(a) program before
- Be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens who are socially and economically disadvantaged
- Have a personal net worth of less than $750 thousand
- Have an adjusted gross income of $350 thousand or less
- Have assets totaling $6 million or less
- Demonstrate good character
- Demonstrate the potential for success, i.e. having been in business for two years or more
8A government contracts program limits and requirements
The 8A certification lasts for a maximum of nine years. The first four years are a development stage, followed by five years of a transitional stage. Continuation in the program is dependent on staying in compliance with program requirements. Once you leave the program, whether of your own accord or failing compliance requirements, you cannot rejoin.
8A program participants are responsible for maintaining all eligibility requirements in the program. This includes any additional conditions that may be added throughout the nine-year period. Each program participant shall certify, on an annual basis, that it meets all current or new requirements. As part of an annual review, each participant must submit specific information to their servicing SBA District Office. For further details on this yearly obligation refer to the Annual Review Checklist.
The federal government fully defines who qualifies for the 8(a) program — including what counts as being socially and economically disadvantaged — in Title 13 Part 124 of the Code of Federal Regulations. If you have questions about applying to the 8(a) Business Development program, you may contact your local SBA office. Members of the 8(a) team answer questions on a monthly basis to help firms navigate the certification process. You can access this conference call with the information provided below.
|When||Third Wednesday of each month – 2:00p.m. to 3:00p.m. (ET)|
|How||Call 202-765-1264 (Washington, DC) and enter phone conference ID#: 217 121 169|
Further contact information:
Office of Government Contracting and Business Development
409 Third St. S.W., Eighth Floor
Washington, DC 20416
Email address: [email protected]
Small businesses are considered by many to be the backbone of our communities. A familiar face, accompanied by an awareness of what you like is always refreshing. In an effort to ensure that every member of our society is allowed to flourish, the 8(a) program offers a multi-layered service that can help our communities grow.
NGS Proudly Partners With 8A Companies
A Teaming Agreement is a form of subcontracting. One business, typically a small business, will enter into an agreement with a larger company to subcontract a portion of the work on a government bid. Entering into a team agreement can give a small contractor access to opportunities that they might not have been able to obtain otherwise.
At NGS, we have a two-tier teaming agreement format. Tier one affords the ability to reduce the overall cost of security and energy projects throughout the country. We offer installation, standardized supplier diversity reporting and joint sales call so that the client is assured of our premier service from beginning to end.
Additionally, we support diversity amongst our subcontractors. Annually, we ask our subcontractors to report if their company is a minority, women-owned, service-disabled veteran operated, or a small, disadvantaged business. We also support HUBZONE, HUB, and tribal 8(a) or small businesses. This is tier two of our program.
We are committed to helping non-certified subcontractors become certified. If we all do our part to help those upcoming small businesses, we will see the best in our communities rise to the occasion. After all, NGS started small. And we’ve proven the American dream is alive and well!
Feature Photo by Joshua Sukoff