he United States Small Business Administration (SBA) will begin implementing the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) contracting program today after publication of the program's final rule. The Women's Procurement Rule aims to increase contracting opportunities to WOSB and is part of a general plan by the Obama Administration that calls for the expansion of contracting opportunities to women, socially and economically disadvantaged persons and veterans.
Sen. Landrieu said:
"Women-owned small businesses stand as an underestimated stronghold in the American economy. Publishing this rule is the final step in a process that began in 2000 to increase the number of Federal contracts awarded to women-owned small businesses. Even in the most trying economic times, women-owned small businesses have remained viable -- creating jobs and continuing to be one of the fastest growing segments of the small business community. The final rule announced by the Obama Administration today will level the playing field for women-owned small businesses in over 83 industries, ensuring that they will receive a fair opportunity when competing for federal contracting opportunities."
Current law mandates that 5 percent of Federal contracting dollars go to women-owned small businesses. In March, the Obama Administration announced proposed changes to the Women-Owned Small Business Contracting Rule and allowed 60 days for public comment. To be eligible to participate in the program, a business must be 51-percent owned and controlled by one or more women, and primarily managed by one or more women. Additionally, a business must be deemed "economically disadvantaged," or work in one of 83 industries that are under-represented or substantially under-represented, in federal procurement awards.
Other key features of the Women's Contracting program include the following:
* In accordance with the statute, the final rule authorizes a set-aside of federal contracts for WOSBs where the anticipated contract price does not exceed $5 million in the case of manufacturing contracts and $3 million in the case of other contracts. Contracts with values in excess of these limits are not subject to set-aside under this program.
* The final rule removes the requirement, set forth in a prior proposed version, that each federal agency certify that it had engaged in discrimination against women-owned small businesses in order for the program to apply to contracting by that agency.
* The final rule requires WOSBs which self-certify to submit a robust certification verification, to complete the certifications at the federal Online Representation and Certification Application ("ORCA") Web site, and also to submit a core set of eligibility-related documents to an online "document repository" to be maintained by the SBA, and accessible by each Federal agency's contracting officers will have full access to this repository. The previous, proposed rule, allowed women-owned small businesses to self-certify as "WOSBs" or to be certified by third-party certifiers, including government entities and private certification groups.
* The final rule will allow the SBA to conduct vigorous oversight of the program, including routine program examinations to confirm eligibility of individual WOSBs, the authority to request substantial additional documentation from the WOSB to establish eligibility, and the ability to pursue punitive action against ineligible firms which seek to take advantage of this program and in so doing to deny its benefits to the intended legitimate WOSBs.
Today's final rule will begin a 120-day implementation of the WOSB contracting program, with the program ready to begin awarding contracts in early 2011.