New Rules Proposed for Federal Women Owned Business Certification Program

To address issues long complicating certification process for the Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses (EDWOSBs) participating in the WOSB Contract Program the Small Business Administration (SBA) has proposed rule changes and is inviting public comments before finalizing the new rules.

The SBA rule changes only affect those contracting opportunities specifically set-aside or sole-sourced through the WOSB/EDWOSB Program and key points are summarized as follows.

The SBA will use its portal,, to certify all WOSBs and EDWOSBs and self-certification will no longer be accepted for set-asides or sole source contracts. Additional entity certifications will also be accepted including the 8(a) Program, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) CVE as a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Business or Veteran-Owned Business or certified as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise by a state agency authorized by the Department of Transportation (DOT); or an SBA approved third party certifier.

If already using an SBA approved third party certifier, WOSBs and EDWOSBs will still need to file on the portal, but they will have a one-year grace period to complete the new online certification. Third party certifiers do charge for their services while the portal is free.

The SBA proposes that both the EDWOSB and the 8(a) economic disadvantage guideline match up but is specifically asking for comments whether the $375,000 net worth standard or the $750,000 net worth standard should be used for both the 8(a) and EDWOSB programs.

The SBA anticipates a delay caused by the backlog of applications for those companies moving from self-certification to the acceptable alternatives and has recommended that applicants who have submitted the application on the SBA portal be allowed to submit an RFP as a WOSB or EDWOSB as long as it has not received a negative determination on the WOSB/EDWOSB certification at the time the RFP is submitted. The company would be required to notify the procuring agency of this conditional status in its RFP response. If that company then becomes the apparent successful offeror on a WOSB/EDWOSB contract, the contracting officer would notify SBA and SBA would prioritize the firm’s application and make a determination within 15 days from the date SBA received the contracting officer’s notification.

This transition backlog issue may have other possible solutions for which the SBA is soliciting comments from industry and interested parties regarding alternatives.

Under the proposed rules, WOSBs that are not certified will not be eligible to compete on set asides for the WOSB Program. Other women-owned small business concerns that do not participate in the Program may continue to self-certify their status, receive contract awards outside the Program as WOSBs, and count toward an agency’s goal for awards to WOSBs.

WOSB program applicants will have their packages reviewed, similar to the 8(a) program, within 15 calendar days for completeness of an application. Applicants will be notified if required information is missing, and that SBA will not process incomplete applications. SBA proposes that it will make its determination within 90 days after a complete application is submitted which is consistent with the time frames and policies established for SBA’s other socio-economic certification programs.

It is important to note that one should make comments either disagreeing or supporting the proposed rule changes because the SBA can only address the actual comments made. If only those respondents who disagree comment, proposed rules could change dramatically.

The proposed changes will go into effect after public comments are reviewed. Comments may be given until July 15, 2019 at or go to and search for the “May 14 2019 WOSB EDWOSB Rule”.  The SBA will post all comments publicly on unless the commenter has indicated the confidential business information during the submission.


Gloria Larkin is President and CEO of TargetGov and a national expert in business development in the government markets.  Email, visit or call toll-free 1-866-579-1346 x 325 for more information.

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