The U.S. Small Business Administration has published a proposed rule that will provide a free online application process for women-owned small businesses to be certified and eligible to participate in the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business Program, or access contracts as a Women-Owned Small Business or Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business.

The following proposals are included in the new rule:

• Allow participation from an expanded list of federal and state entities with existing certification programs, and confirm the continued participation of approved third-party certifiers.

• Eliminate the self-certification option consistent with the Small Business Act and require approved third-party certifiers to notify applicants of its fees and the option to use SBA’s free online certification process.

• Adopt a $750,000 net worth standard when assessing economic disadvantage for Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses as well as continuing eligibility for the 8(a) Business Development Program.

“Every day more women are participating in non-traditional industries, but they don’t always have easy access to federal government contracts. The proposed rule will bolster the number of federal contract awards to women-owned certified businesses and better empower agencies to meet the 5% federal contracting goal for women-owned small businesses,” said Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands District Director Yvette T. Collazo.

Currently, contracting officers must review a contract awardee’s documentation to verify an applicant’s eligibility. By establishing a transparent, centralized, and free certification process, the SBA aims to provide contracting officers with reassurance that firms participating in the program are eligible for awards and encourage them to set aside more contracts for women-owned small businesses.

The SBA is seeking public comments on the proposed rule. To submit comments, visit www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/05/14/2019-09684/women-owned-small-business-and-economically-disadvantaged-women-owned-small-business--certification. Comments must be submitted by July 15.

To learn more about how the SBA supports women entrepreneurs, visit their website at www.sba.gov/wosb.