The Small Business Administration has “temporarily suspended” applications from federal contractors to the 8(a) Business Development Program, which is intended to help small businesses whose owners are socially and economically disadvantaged.
In a note on its certify.sba.gov portal, which was shared with FedScoop, SBA said it had stopped accepting new applications following an injunction issued last month by a federal court in Tennessee that enjoined the use of presumed racial and ethnic disadvantage as a qualification for the contracting program.
The agency wrote: “SBA has temporarily suspended new 8(a) application submissions while it revises the application questionnaire to comply with the Court’s decision. Thank you for your patience and interest in the 8(a) Business Development Program.”
Last month’s ruling by a Tennessee federal judge halted the Department of Agriculture and the SBA from considering these factors, which are cornerstones of the 8(a) program, when making contracting decisions.
Last month’s ruling relies in part on the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down the use of race in college admissions through affirmative action.
Contracting experts previously told FedScoop that it could have a broad impact on the governmentwide program, although they noted that the full scope isn’t clear and will likely be appealed.
Commenting on the 8(a) program suspension in a blog post, federal contracting attorney Nicole Pottroff wrote: “SBA appears to be taking the “wait until we tell you otherwise” approach to new 8(a) Program applications … [w]e are all anxiously awaiting more information on the potential implications the decision could have on both applicant and current 8(a) Program participants.”
The SBA had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.