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SBA Overhauls 8(a) Program to Start Profits Flowing Home

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Increased transparency of Native corporations, money flowing back to Native communities—and perhaps a more “painful” process of adhering to tightened regulations, according to Jacqueline Johnson Pata, the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)—will be some of the results of new changes to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 8(a) program, reported The Washington Post. The 8(a) program for small and disadvantaged businesses–which includes tribes, Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs), Native Hawaiian–Owned Corporations (NHOs) and Community Development Corporations–allows program members no-bid government contracting privileges.

“The regulations, first and foremost, help ensure the benefits flow to the intended recipients,” the SBA Administrator, Karen Mills, said in a statement. “By tightening the regulations, along with unprecedented oversight over the past two years, SBA is demonstrating its commitment to preventing waste, fraud and abuse.”

The revised regulations designate workloads for joint ventures; 8(a)s must do at least 40 percent of the work, reported the Post. Joseph Jordan, an SBA associate administrator, told the Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN) that one of the biggest changes is that Native corporations must now report all benefits their shareholders receive. Even with new guidelines in place to protect shareholders, the responsibility to enforce rules still falls on other agencies. The Post reports that government audits show procurement officials often misunderstand or ignore rules.

The 8(a) changes go into effect March 14, states the Anchorage Daily News, and Jordan told APRN that corporations have six months to apply the changes.