Growing Your Small Business – Doing Business With the Department of Health and Human Services

In 1953 the Department of Health, Education and Welfare became a cabinet level department in the United States. In 1979 the Department of Education Organization Act split HEW into the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS is responsible for the health, safety and well-being of residents of the United States. This mandate also extends internationally for cross-border health and safety issues.

HHS administers over 300 programs with a budget of over $737 billion. HHS mission includes a wide range of human issues, including substance abuse, Medicare and Medicaid, childrens health, health disparities, disease prevention and health promotion. It is the largest grant-making department within the Federal Government.

In 1979 the Department of Health and Human Services established the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization to develop and implement outreach to the small business community. The Office performs its mission through small business fairs, procurement conferences, trade group seminars, conventions and forums.

The Office of Small Business Development, also called OSDBU, is host to Vendor Outreach Sessions that happen twice monthly. The purpose of these sessions is to introduce and educate vendors on the small business program and to provide them information so that they can effectively market their products and services to HHS.

The Department of Health and Human Services is the only executive agency where Small Business Specialists report to the OSDBU Director. These Small Business Specialists are located within the eleven agencies of HHS.

Every day, these Specialists work with Contracting and Program Office staff, so as to determine the best acquisition strategy; they also work to make their approach unified so that when vendors deal with Health And Human Services, this unity will benefit them.

Currently, HHS does not provide grants or loans to help small businesses get going, but it is in fact the largest organization to make grants within the federal government. It has over 300 grant programs today, and it handles mission-specific topics, which are in turn delegated among the various HHS operating agencies. The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance profiles all Federal grant programs; these provide financial assistance and include HHS programs. In addition, specific points of contact for obtaining applications or additional information are also provided.

Vendors who are interested in doing business with Health And Human Services do not have to have any special certification, but instead, the Small Business Administration provides certification to firms under the Business Development Program, the Historically Underutilized Business Zone Program, and the Small Disadvantaged Business Program. Businesses that are Women-Owned, Veteran Owned, Service Disabled Veteran Owned, or Small Businesses are generally managed with self-certification. Self-certification is not challenged unless or until an interested party or competitor provides protest to it. In addition, an HHS Contracting Officer may request that the SBA provide a size determination.