The 8(a) program is a robust nine-year program created to help firms owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
The 8(a) certification qualifies your business as eligible to compete for the program’s sole-source and competitive set-aside contracts. The government authorizes sole-source contracts to 8(a) participants for up to $7.5 million for acquisitions assigned manufacturing North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes and $4.5 million for all other acquisitions. Entity-owned 8(a) program participants are eligible for sole-source contracts above these thresholds, but the Department of Defense requires approval of a formal justification if the 8(a) sole-source contract exceeds $100 million; all other federal agencies require approval for sole-source 8(a) contract actions that exceed $25 million.
The 8(a) certification does not guarantee contract awards, but it is a dynamic tool to pursue and capture new opportunity from the government.
Certified firms in the 8(a) program can:
- Efficiently compete and receive set-aside and sole-source contracts.
- Receive one-on-one business development assistance for their nine-year term from dedicated Business Opportunity Specialists focused on helping firms grow and accomplish their business objectives.
- Pursue opportunity for mentorship from experienced and technically capable firms through the SBA Mentor-Protégé program.
- Connect with procurement and compliance experts who understand regulations in the context of business growth, finance, and government contracting.
- Pursue joint ventures with established businesses to increase capacity.
- Qualify to receive federal surplus property on a priority basis.
- Receive free training from SBA’s 7(j) Management and Technical Assistance program.
Sole Source Contracts
The most concrete benefit of 8(a) participation is getting exclusive access to win certain contracts as sole-source providers on government contracts. The sole-source contracts can be worth up to $6.5 million for manufacturers and up to $4 million for sellers of goods and services. For larger contracts, 8(a) participants can band together to form joint ventures and bid collaboratively.
Every agency in the U.S. government sets aside a portion of its contracting jobs for small businesses.
To qualify for the 8(a) program, follow this eligibility checklist:
- Be a small business.
- Not have previously participated in the 8(a) program.
- Be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by U.S. citizens who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
- Have a personal net worth of $750K or less, adjusted gross income of $350K or less and $6 million or less in assets.
- Demonstrate good character and potential to perform on contracts.