PilieroMazza recently shared the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) new rules: (1) Small Business Lending Company (SBLC) Moratorium Rescission and Removal of the Requirement for a Loan Authorization (Moratorium Rule) and (2) Affiliation and Lending Criteria for the SBA Business Loan Programs (Affiliation Rule). These rules focus on combating persistent gaps in access to capital affecting small business owners in underserved communities. Along the same vein, a recent initiative jointly issued by the SBA and the General Services Administration (GSA) is the 8(a) MAS (Multiple Award Schedule) Pool Initiative (the Initiative). The Initiative aims to increase federal contracting opportunities for small-disadvantaged businesses (SDBs) who are part of SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program (8(a) Program) for government contracts in GSA’s MAS Program.
SBA and GSA jointly announced the new Initiative to help participants in the 8(a) Program access federal contracting opportunities by joining the Initiative. Upon acceptance, 8(a) Program participants are deemed eligible for 8(a), sole-source awards and competitive set-asides within the MAS Program. The benefit to joining the MAS Program manifests when federal agencies leverage the size and scale of the MAS marketplace to achieve their SDB contracting goals while making smart purchasing decisions.
For context, SBA’s 8(a) Program is an opportunity for socially- and economically-disadvantaged small business owners whose businesses, operating for at least two years, to compete for set-aside and sole-source contracts. The 8(a) Program extends for nine years, four of which are dedicated to development with the remaining five years committed to preparing an entity as it transitions from small to large. To maintain 8(a) status for all nine years, an entity must remain in compliance with 8(a) Program requirements. In 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order 13985, “Advancing Racial Equality and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.” Under this initiative, Biden announced a goal to increase government contracts for small, disadvantaged businesses to 15% of federal prime contracting dollars by 2025. The 8(a) MAS program represents another step toward achieving 15% by 2025.
The Initiative impacts 8(a) Program participants differently depending on their involvement:
- Current 8(a) MAS contractors who accepted an 8(a) MAS contract, identified by SBA, and added to the MAS Pool.
- 8(a) Program participants who applied to join the Initiative should proactively correspond with the SBA on their application status. Since GSA intends to issue a mass modification to SBA-accepted 8(a) Program participants, that modification must be accepted to be added to the MAS Pool and, consequently, be eligible for 8(a) awards.
- Current 8(a) Program participants seeking a MAS contract must first be accepted into the Initiative. Once accepted to the Initiative, the 8(a) Program participant’s contract will be added to the 8(a) MAS Pool upon award of the MAS contract.
- Former 8(a) Program participants with a MAS contract who exited the 8(a) Program will not be added to the MAS Pool and their 8(a) status will be removed as part of SBA’s data cleanup effort.
Sole Source v. Competitive Set-Aside Contracts
- 8(a) MAS Pool contractors will be eligible for sole source awards as long as they are active in the 8(a) program and continue to qualify as small for the order’s standards at the time it is issued.
- For competitive set-aside awards, MAS Pool contractors will be eligible for up to five years from the date of award or until re-representation is required under FAR 19.301-2(b) (including in certain cases of novation, mergers, acquisitions, long term contracts, or when the contracting officer requires MAS contractors to re-represent for specific orders), whichever is first, even after the contractor has left the 8(a) Program.
SDBs with an active 8(a) status should take advantage of the Initiative in order to participate in the MAS Program. SDBs not yet a part of the 8(a) Program should consider joining the 8(a) Program to benefit from the recent changes implemented by SBA and GSA aimed at increasing contract opportunities and allowing for economic growth. With increasing access for 8(a) participants via this initiative, non-8(a) participants might begin considering teaming strategies to identify what, if any, anticipated work is likely to be set-aside for 8(a) MAS Pool contractors; non-8(a) contractors should identify potential 8(a) teaming partners that would fall under this initiative to expand their range of solicitations.
If you have questions about how these Rules will impact your business or how to navigate SBA’s small business programs, please contact Cy Alba or Ustina Ibrahim, the authors of this blog, or another member of PilieroMazza’s Government Contracts Group.