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under this program, the government may set aside procurements exclusively for small businesses. FedBizOpps announcements will indicate those solicitations which have been set aside. However, since the federal government is required to buy at competitive prices, set-asides are made only when enough qualified small businesses are expected to offer, in order to ensure adequate competition. The SBA establishes size standards for small businesses on an industry-by-industry basis. They are defined by dollar volume of sales, or number of employees, or a combination of these factors. Size standards are published in the FAR, 48 CFR 19.102.

Section 8(a) Program

Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act authorizes SBA to enter into contracts with other federal agencies to supply goods and services needed by those agencies. SBA then subcontracts the actual performance of the work to small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. In August 1998, through a memorandum of understanding (MOU), the Small Business Administration (SBA) granted ED the authority to award 8(a) contracts directly to 8(a) firms. The objective of the “8(a)” Program is to help eligible small firms become independently competitive. To be eligible for 8(a) Program participation, a small business concern must be at least 51 percent owned, controlled, managed, and operated on a daily basis by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged persons. Socially disadvantaged individuals are those who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identification as members of certain groups. Economically disadvantaged individuals are those socially disadvantaged individuals whose ability to compete in the economy has been impaired due to diminished capital and credit opportunities. Black Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, and Asian Indian Americans have been officially designated socially and economically disadvantaged. Members of other groups must provide evidence that they are economically and socially disadvantaged. SBA determines eligibility on a case-by-case basis. If you are interested in the program, contact the nearest SBA office.

8(a) certified firms should also contact ED’s OSDBU and have a capability statement on file with the office. When a requirement is determined to be suitable for acquisition through the 8(a) Program, the OSDBU and the responsible procurement officials review the capability statements on file. If a firm’s product or service can fulfill the ED requirement, then the company may be asked (along with other 8(a) businesses) to make a presentation concerning its capabilities to provide the required goods or services. Normally, ED selects one firm as a result of these presentations and asks that firm to develop a complete proposal for the project. That firm then negotiates directly with ED. More information about this process can be obtained from OSDBU.

Small and Disadvantaged Business Set-Aside Program

The Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994, Public Law 103-355, created a new small and disadvantaged business set-aside program that supplements but does not replace the 8(a) Program. Specifically, sections 7101-7108 of that Act authorize agencies to set aside competitions solely for small and disadvantaged business concerns with awards made by the agency rather than through the SBA. Competitions under this authority will be announced in FedBizOpps as set-asides for small and disadvantaged businesses. In addition, the Act provides that an agency may issue unrestricted solicitations that give up to a 10 percent price evaluation preference to small and disadvantaged business concerns.

Doing Business with the Department of Education

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