Contracting assistance programs

The federal government uses special programs to help small businesses win at least at 23% of all federal contracting dollars each year.

Contracting assistance program benefits

SBA provides several programs to help small businesses win federal contracts. Participating in these programs helps small businesses:

  • Win a fair share of federal contracts
  • Qualify for exclusive set-aside and sole-source contracts
  • Partner with established contractors to win contracts
  • Get business mentoring and education to learn how federal contracting works
  • 8(a) Business Development program

    Federal contracting and training program for experienced small business owners who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
  • SBA Mentor-Protégé program

    Your small business can learn from an experienced government contractor through SBA's Mentor-Protégé program.
  • Joint ventures

    Joint ventures allow certain businesses to compete together for government contracts reserved for small businesses.
  • HUBZone program

    The HUBZone program fuels small business growth in historically underutilized business zones with a goal of awarding at least 3% of federal contract dollars to HUBZone-certified companies each year.
  • Natural Resource Sales Assistance program

    The government sells large amounts of natural resources and surplus property. SBA works with federal agencies to channel a fair share to small businesses.

Program structure

Small business contracting goals

The government works to make sure small businesses get at least 23% of all federal contracting dollars.

Additionally, the government tries to award a certain percentage of all federal prime contracting dollars to small businesses that meet certain socio-economic conditions.

Small business category Contracting dollar award goal

Women-owned small business


Small disadvantaged business


Service-disabled veteran-owned small business


Small business in a HUBZone


For some large contracts that can’t be awarded directly to small businesses, the government requires a small business subcontracting plan as part of the award. A small business subcontracting plan directs the prime contractor to subcontract out parts of the award to small businesses. A subcontracting plan is required when these conditions are met:

  • The contract is expected to exceed $750,000 ($1.5 million for construction).
  • There are capable small businesses who could do subcontract work at a fair market value, without significantly disrupting performance

The rules that govern subcontracting plans are set forth in Subpart 19.7 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).


To help provide a level playing field for small businesses, the government limits competition for certain contracts to small businesses. Those contracts are called “small business set-asides,” and they help small businesses compete for and win federal contracts.

Some set-asides are open to any small business, but some are open only to small businesses who participate in SBA contracting assistance programs.

How to participate in contracting assistance programs

To participate in any of SBA’s small business contracting assistance programs, you’ll first need to qualify as a small business. SBA’s size standards determine whether or not your business qualifies as small.

Most of the socio-economic programs require some form of certification. Many programs use the website to let you certify or do a preliminary check to see if you’re qualified.

However, each program has its own standards and process for certification, so make sure to read carefully.

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