Small businesses seeking the unique advantages associated with the 8(a) business development program must apply directly with the SBA. The application process covers a wide-range of subjects related to the business’s eligibility for the program – most prominently including a showing that the business owner satisfies the strict social and economic disadvantage requirements.
No process is perfect (particularly when the federal government is at the wheel) – so what do you do when the SBA makes an error and mistakenly denies your application? For the most part, you can take your issue up directly to the SBA itself by filing a petition with the SBA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA). OHA has the ability to correct errors with respect to negative findings of social disadvantage, economic disadvantage, and business ownership or control.
But what if your application was denied for another reason? Suddenly, the SBA and even OHA are no longer in charge.
For example, suppose your business met all of the requirements discussed above, but was mistakenly denied admission into the 8(a) program for failure to show the potential for “future business success” (one of those other areas that also make up part of the 8(a) application). For those cases, the unsuccessful applicant’s only recourse is to take up an appeal under the Administrative Procedures Act (5 U.S.C. § 701). Notably, this is true even when the denial is based on multiple grounds. In other words, even if the SBA denies your application based on an alleged lack of social disadvantage and future business success, there is no right of appeal with OHA.
The takeaway? Measure twice and cut once . . .
8(a) program applications should not be submitted without full confidence that all eligibility criteria are fully satisfied and explained with sufficient detail. An oversight or minor error might leave your application denied and without an efficient right of appeal with OHA.