What You Need to Know About the Changes the SBA is Making to the Woman-Owned Small Business Federal Contract (WOSB) Program
Government Business Development | 3 Min Read
The Woman-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program will adopt a new certification process on July 15, 2020. In 2019, the Small Business Administration (SBA) proposed an amendment to the current Women-Owned Small Business Program that would implement a statutory requirement to certify them as Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) or Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses (EDWOSBs). This new regulation will allow WOSB and EDWOSBs to be eligible for set-aside and sole source awards, but what does this change mean for eligible contractors?
Under this new regulation, companies that may be eligible for a WOSB or EDWOSB certification will have various options to apply. The SBA will use its portal, certify.sba.gov, to certify all WOSBs and EDWOSBs, and self-certification will no longer be accepted for set-aside or sole source contracts.
What is the Timeline for These Changes?
The WOSB Federal Contract Program will start to implement the SBA's new regulation on July 15, 2020. On this date, eligible businesses can begin to submit applications for the new certification process. There will be a 90-day grace period, but after October 15, 2020, the self-certification option will no longer be available on certify.sba.gov.
Applicants will begin receiving decisions on WOSB status within 90 days after a complete application is submitted to SBA, but the first decisions will not be issued until October 15, 2020. However, the SBA will be anticipating an initial delay in processing all the potential applications, given the approximate 10,000 firms currently in the WOSB repository. The anticipated influx of applications from these firms would likely overwhelm the SBA, which processes approximately 3,000 applications a year for 8(a) status and 1,500 a year for HUBZone status.
Am I Eligible to Be Certified as a WOSB?
The WOSB program two basic eligibility requirements--a business must be considered a small business, and must be at least 51% owned by women who are U.S. citizens.
To apply for certification, new WOSB applicants should submit the following information through their certify.sba.gov account:
- SAM.gov registration information
- Proof of U.S. Citizenship for the female owner(s)
- Other business related documentation
- Joint venture agreements (if applicable)
Any additional entity certification will also be accepted including the 8(a) Program, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) CVE as a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business or Veteran-Owned Business or certified as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise by a state agency authorized by the Department of Transportation (DOT); or an SBA approved third-party certifier. There are four organizations approved by the SBA to provide third-party certification. They are:
- El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
- National Women Business Owners Corporation
- US Women’s Chamber of Commerce
- Women’s Business Enterprise National Council
For those that are already using SBA approved third-party certifiers, WOSBs and EDWOSBs will need to be filed on the certify.sba.gov portal. The SBA will still allow third-party certifiers to certify a qualified applicant for the program. The third-party certifier must be pre-approved by the SBA.Typically, third party certifiers charge a fee for their services while the certify.sba.gov portal is free.
The regulation will permit an entity to be eligible for an award under the program as long as its application is pending. If that offeror is selected for an award, its application will be prioritized by SBA, and a determination will be made in 15 days. The certification requirement will apply only to participants wishing to compete for set-aside or sole source contracts under the WOSB Federal Contract Program. WOSBs that are not certified will not be eligible to compete on set-asides for the program.
Importantly, women-owned small businesses that do not participate in the program may continue to self-certify their status, receive contract awards outside the program as WOSBs, and count toward an agency's goal for awards to WOSBs. For those purposes, which would include subcontracts, full-and-open awards, and small business set-asides, contracting officers would be able to accept self-certifications without verification.
Why is the SBA Changing the Certification Process?
The primary reason the SBA is implementing this new rule is to increase the number of federal contracts awarded to WOSB and EDWOSB-certified businesses, as well as to help agencies that need to meet the 5% federal contracting goal for WOSBs. By establishing a centralized and free certification process, the SBA aims to provide contracting officers with reassurance that firms participating in the WOSB Program are eligible for awards and encourage them to set aside contracts for women-owned small businesses.