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The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee found that a piece of the 8(a) business development program is unconstitutional. To develop its response to the district court’s decision, the SBA placed all applications on hold. This is still a matter of the courts and will be for the foreseeable future.

The district court issued an injunction because the SBA presumed racial and ethnic disadvantage. They presumed so, without question, as a main qualification for members of specific groups. The SBA assumed that, because of a business owner’s claim of race or ethnicity, they have been subjected to personal discrimination and have been socially disadvantaged.

What the SBA is doing moving forward is to require a narrative from every business already certified, in the process of being certified, and those ready to submit their application. The narrative essay must outline specifcs of who, what, where, when, and why of the qualifying situation.

8a business development program

There is no set date as to when the SBA will open up application intake. Select GCR is helping our client collect their documentation and review their narratives so when the applications open back up, our clients will be first in line. Also, we are reviewing our current 8(a) certification holder’s narratives and submitting the essay on their behalf.

What is the 8(a) business development program?

This program is one of many programs the SBA offers to small businesses looking to grow through government contracting. The 8(a) business development program will allow your business to qualify for many benefits. Your business will be able to bid on set aside contracts with minimal to no competition. There are many other benefits to the program, but this is the reason most get involved.

The 8(a) certification program is the common term for Minority Small Business and Capital Ownership Development Program. This program provides training, mentorship, technical assistance, and contracting opportunities. A business must meet certain requirements to apply. For more information on qualifications, visit our 8(a)/Minority Owned Business Certification page.

The main stipulation for qualification is being owned by a socially and economically disadvantaged person. You must be of good character and a US citizen. The previous way the SBA determined if the applicant was socially disadvantaged was challenged in district court. Rebuttable presumption was deemed unconstitutional. Every applicant must now provide evidence that they have been discriminated against by way of a written narrative in order to apply for the 8(a) business development program.

8a business development program

What classifies a person as socially disadvantaged?

To be classified as socially disadvantaged, a person must demonstrate being subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias within American society. They specifically must show that discrimination occurred due to their identity to a group and not because of their individual qualities.

People can be socially disadvantaged in the eyes of the SBA without being a member of one of their designated groups. The person must give evidence by way of a narrative essay and identify the distinguishing feature that creates a social disadvantage.

The social disadvantage must:

  • be rooted within the American society
  • be chronic and substantial
  • have negatively impacted entry or advancement in the business world

SBA Uses Rebuttal Presumption

Previously, anyone who is a member of the designated groups could apply. With rebuttal presumption, the SBA awarded the label “socially disadvantaged” to every applicant who identifies as one of their ethnic and racial groups. The applicant’s claims weren’t being challenged. The SBA didn’t have a checkpoint in place to sort out those who have been discriminated against versus those who never experienced social disadvantage.

Because of the district court’s injunction against the SBA, they are no longer allowed to presume social disadvantage. The SBA must decide the best way to individually determine whether a person qualifies for the 8(a) business development program. The use of a personal narrative would solve the problem; however, it would potentially slow down the process since they must review a narrative for every applicant.

How do you write a narrative?

First, choose the situation or situations you want to write about. Really replay the situation in your mind. Remember specific details of discrimination against you on a professional level that prove you were socially disadvantaged.

Write an outline. Your outline will determine the flow of your essay. You’ll want to first introduce your topic. Then write the main details that will support your topic. Outline a conclusion showing exactly how the situation negatively impacted your life.

Write your first draft. Use your outline as a guide and bring life to your story. Give as many specific details as you can. Make sure the narrative is believable and honest. Be sure to explain every detail showing why the SBA should allow you into the program. Each detail should further back up your claim of social disadvantage.

Who should you get to review and edit your first draft?

Select GCR. The team at Select GCR knows how to review your narrative and edit it for grammar and readability. They can give you tips on how to improve your writing to get your application approved.

You’ll probably want to let someone close to you read and edit your story. It’s not always a good idea to let someone you know critique an essay you wrote. Keeping a third party, like Select GCR, responsible for your essay will lift the burden from friends and relatives.

Contact our office today for a no-obligation ready assessment to see if your business is ready for growth. Our Federal Business Development Advisor team will explain how getting into the 8(a) business development program will increase your Government opportunities. It’s up to you to decide if certification is the right addition to your business plan.


Give us a call today! 833-336-3988