DOT’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program

DOT’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s
Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program.   The Department of Transportation
distributes substantial Federal funds to finance transportation
projects initiated by State and local governments, public transit authorities,
and airport entities. The DOT is responsible
for ensuring that all business enterprises
have a fair opportunity to compete for federally-funded
transportation contracts. The Disadvantaged Business
Enterprise, DBE program, is the DOT’s strongest tool for
creating a level playing field. The DBE program began
in 1980 as a minority and women’s business
enterprise program. The program was established
under the authority of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
which prohibits racial, ethnic, and national origin
discrimination, and other statutes prohibiting
gender discrimination that apply to DOT financial
assistance programs. Congress has reauthorized
the DBE program several times since its inception. Most recently, Congress
established a continued need for the DBE program in the
“Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.” As a condition of receiving
Federal financial assistance, recipients of funds from the
Federal Highways Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, and Federal Transit
Administration are required to follow the DBE program
regulations located in 49 CFR parts 26 and 23. The Departmental Office of
Civil Rights coordinates the Department’s oversight
of the program. These three Operating
Administrations (FHWA, FAA, and FTA) are primarily
responsible for overseeing the day-to-day
administration of the program by recipients, providing
training and technical assistance,
and enforcing compliance. The DBE program remedies
ongoing discrimination and the continuing effects
of past discrimination in federally-assisted
transportation contracting markets nationwide. The day-to-day administration
of the DBE program is carried out by recipients
of Federal funds at the state and local level. This includes approximating how
much participation is expected from DBEs by setting an
annual overall DBE goal that represents the level of participation anticipated
absent the effects of present and past discrimination. Recipients must set an overall
goal for DBE participation and monitor results to foster
nondiscriminatory environments and ensure that DBEs
have an equal opportunity to compete fairly. The DBE program isn’t a
quota or set-aside program. Instead it’s based on narrowly
tailored goals and participation by prime contractors, sub-contractors,
and agency partners. Certification of eligible
firms is a key component of the DBE program. But what is a DBE? A Disadvantaged Business
Enterprise is a for-profit, small business. At least 51 percent of the
business is owned by one or more individuals
who are both socially and economically disadvantaged. And the management and daily
business operations are controlled by one or
more of the socially and economically
disadvantaged business owners. Firms meeting the eligibility
standards can contact state departments of transportation
or state DBE liaison and certification officers for
instructions on how to apply for DBE certification. Each state has a Unified
Certification Program (UCP) to ensure certification
decisions are honored by all recipients in that state. There’s also a streamlined
interstate certification process for existing DBEs wishing to
participate in other states. A firm must be certified to
be counted toward a DBE goal. To find out more about the
DBE program, how to apply to the program, and other useful
contacts, visit the DOT website.  

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. Openly discriminating against WHITE MALE owned companies. How is a single truck owner not disadvantaged against someone who is granted dbe status with 20+ trucks.

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