Let’s Go Swimming: Small Business Development Targeted by SBA and GSA’s 8(a) MAS Pool Initiative | Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP


Summer is starting to feel hot in Washington, DC and like most Washingtonians, the GSA and SBA are thinking about pools. So throw on some flip flops, grab a cold beverage, and let’s head out to the 8(a) Multiple Rewards Program (“MAS”) Pool Initiative (and, obviously, prepare yourself for lots and lots of pool-themed puns).

Heading into Memorial Day weekend, SBA and GSA announced a joint effort – the 8(a) MAS Pool Initiative – to facilitate contract awards by creating the 8(a) Business Development Program to less affected businesses. The initiative aims to increase flexibility and opportunities for 8(a) small businesses to mandate the MAS program and make it easier for GSA customers to purchase from 8(a) small businesses.

First step in small business and 8(a) business development program

First, let’s start with a small, slightly damaged business/8(a) renewal. A small affected business is a small business, under applicable size criteria, that is at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged persons residing in the United States. Individuals with social problems are those “who are subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural discrimination in American society without regard to their identity as members of a group or their individual characteristics.” Some individuals are considered socially disadvantaged, including Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Pacific Americans. Economically disadvantaged individuals must generally have a net worth of less than $850,000. adjusted gross income of $400,000 or less; and total assets of $6.5 million or less. A small distressed business can self-certify its eligibility for any federal subcontracting program.

Small businesses can apply for the 8(a) Business Development Program. To qualify, socially and economically disadvantaged individuals must be of “good character” and cannot previously participate in the 8(a) program. In addition, the business must demonstrate potential for success. After SBA enters the program, a less distressed business becomes an 8(a) “participant” for nine years if it remains eligible. Therefore, 8(a) participants are a subset of small distressed businesses: while all 8(a) businesses are “small distressed businesses,” not all least distressed businesses are 8(a) participants.

President Biden’s initiative to increase contracts for small businesses affected

On the first day of his presidency, President Biden issued Executive Order 13985 – “Promoting Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities in the Federal Government,” which, among other things, aims to reduce federal contracting by underserved individuals and communities. In the year In 2021, as part of that commitment, President Biden announced a goal to increase small distressed business government contracts to 15% of federal prime contracting dollars by 2025 (a 50% increase from the then-existing goal). In the years since, the administration has implemented a number of measures to achieve that goal, many of them focused on communication. And these efforts are seeing results. In the year The 8(a) MAS Pool Initiative represents another management effort to achieve the 15% target by 2025.

SBA and GSA 8(a) MAS Pool Initiative

Okay, now that we’re refreshed let’s grab our swim trunks and jump in the pool. SBA and GSA have entered into a revised 8(a) Program Partnership Agreement to streamline government procurement of MAS 8(a). GSA and SBA work together to establish a MAS 8(a) pool of new and existing 8(a) small businesses. GSA has identified current, active 8(a) program participants. SBA will now determine whether the identified 8(a) participants are admitted to the pool. 8(a) MAS contractors should look for any correspondence from SBA in the coming weeks as SBA reviews pool eligibility (and possibly requests additional information).

Once accepted, 8(a) pool participants receive a unique designation that lets agency buyers know that the business is a competitive and exclusive source of 8(a) awards from their MAS contract(s). As administration push to increase less-affected business contracts, the designation will allow agencies to work better to meet their spending goals.

Maintaining pool eligibility (or should we say “deep-end”) depends on whether the award is competitive or sole sourced. MAS 8(a) pool contractors shall be eligible for:

  1. So long as Sole Source Awards are active in the 8(a) program and remain eligible for the order amount during the award period. And
  2. Under FAR 19.301-2(b) (including in certain novations, mergers, acquisitions, long-term contracts or conditions) competitive interim awards lasting up to five years from the date of issuance or until reassignment. The contracting officer will require MAS contractors to resubmit certain orders, whichever occurs first and after the contractor withdraws from the 8(a) program.

GSA expects—if all goes well—the 8(a) MAS Pool will be fully implemented sometime in 2023. Be good out there, guys.


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