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Equal Opportunity Office


What are the goals and objectives of the DBE Program?

(1)  Ensure nondiscrimination in the award and administration of contracts

(2)  Create a level playing field on which DBEs can compete fairly for contracts

(3)  Ensure that the Department's DBE Program is narrowly tailored

(4)  Ensure that only firms that fully meet the eligibility standards are permitted to participate as DBEs

(5)  Assist in the development of firms that can compete successfully in the marketplace outside the DBE Program


Where can I find the Code of Federal Regulations that administers the DBE Program?

The DBE Program is a federal program operating under the guidance of the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Authorization for the program comes from 49 Code of Federal Regulation Part 26 (49 CFR 26).  As a recipient of federal transportation funds, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) must comply with the requirements of 49 CFR 26.  You may review the complete regulation here 49 CFR Part 26


How are DBE participation goals established?

The Department's DBE Program is implemented through race and gender neutral means.  Ultimately, we believe our DBE goal can be achieved under the normal competitive process.  Prime contractors and Prime consultants submit voluntary commitments and actual expenditures with DBEs.

Race neutral under the construction program is defined as not setting race or gender specific goals on the individual projects, but counting all participation of DBE subcontractors utilized by contractors on projects.

Race neutral under the consultant or professional services program is defined as not assigning race or gender preference points on projects for prime consultants who were either DBEs or who utilized DBEs for a certain percentage of work but counting all participation of DBE sub-consultants utilized by consultants on projects.


What is a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise?

A Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) is a for-profit, independent small business concern that is:

(1)  At least 51% owned by one or more individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged; and

(2)  Whose management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more of the socially and economically disadvantaged individuals who own it.


What is the Unified Certification Program (UCP)?

The UCP provides "one-stop shopping" where disadvantaged businesses that meet the DBE certification requirements and become certified are eligible to be used to meet the DBE goal requirements on any project with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation.  The UCP eliminates the need for multiple DBE certifications with recipients of funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In Florida, DBE UCP Certifying Members shall make certification decisions on behalf of all recipients in the state, with respect to participation in the U.S. Department of Transportation DBE Program.

(1)  The UCP shall provide "one-stop shopping" to applicants for certification, such that an applicant is required to apply only once for a DBE certification and all recipients in the state will honor that certification.

(2)  All obligations of recipients with respect to certification and nondiscrimination must be carried out by UCPs, and recipients may use only UCPs that comply with the certification and nondiscrimination requirements of 49 CFR Part 26.

(3)  A UCP is not required to process an application for certification from a firm having its principal place of business outside the state of Florida if the firm is not certified by the UCP in their "home state", where it maintains its principal place of business.

(4)  A UCP DBE Directory containing all firms certified by the Florida DBE UCP Program is available to the public electronically, on the internet.  The DBE Directory is updated as additions/changes are made.  The web address for the DBE Directory is http://www3b.dot.state.fl.us/EqualOpportunityOfficeBusinessDirectory/


Who qualifies to be a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise?

In general, to be eligible for the DBE Program, individuals must be U.S. citizens, or lawfully admitted permanent residents; who own 51%, or more of a "small business"; establish that they are both socially and economically disadvantaged within the definition of the regulation; and show through the regulation standards they control the business.  The following general guidelines, taken in part from the applicable regulation (49 CFR Part 26); will help business owners determine whether they are eligible for the DBE Program:

  • Ownership - The business must be 51% owned by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual(s).
  • "Socially Disadvantaged" - You may be eligible if you are a member of one of the following presumptive groups --- Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, Subcontinent Asian Americans, Women and other groups found to be disadvantaged by the Small Business Administration (SBA).  Persons who are not members of one of the aforementioned presumptive groups may also be eligible if they establish their "social" and "economic" disadvantaged on an individual basis.  More information on how social and economic disadvantaged is determined can be found in Appendix E of 49 CFR Part 26.  A determination of whether an individual meets DBE eligibility criteria is made on a case-by-case basis.
  • Personal Net Worth - Only socially disadvantaged persons having a personal net worth (PNW) of less than $1.32 million will be considered economically disadvantaged.  Items excluded from a person's net worth calculation include an individual's ownership interest in the applicant firm, and the equity in his or her primary residence.  Additional exclusions are available for owners of airport concessionaires (See 49 CFR Part 23).
  • Business Size Determination - A firm, including its affiliates must be a small business as defined by SBA size standards.  It must not have had annual gross receipts in excess of $23.98 million over the previous three fiscal years.  The U.S. Department of Transportation periodically adjusts this threshold for inflation.
  • Independence - The business must not rely on another firm or firms in such a way as to compromise its independence and control.
  • Control - A disadvantaged owner seeking certification must possess the power to direct or cause the direction of the management and policies of the firm.  The owner must also have an overall understanding of, and managerial and technical competence and experience directly related to, the type of business in which the firm is engaged.
  • Burden of Proof Allocation - Applicants carry the burden of proof regarding their eligibility and must demonstrate with a preponderance of evidence that they meet all requirements concerning group membership or individual disadvantaged status, business size, independence, ownership, and control.

Additional program requirements and certification procedures are found in Regulation, 49 CFR Parts 23 and 26. 


Is there a cost to become DBE certified?

The Florida Department of Transportation does not charge a fee to become DBE certified.


How can I apply for DBE certification?

Businesses interested in becoming DBE certified under the Florida UCP Program must submit a complete DBE application to the FDOT or applicable certifying UCP Member. The application must be signed and notarized.  If the firm engages in or intends to engage in:

  • Primarily road, highway or bridge construction or maintenance related goods or services --- submit the DBE application to the FDOT;
  •  Primarily airport related goods or services --- submit the DBE application to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Certifying Member closest to your primary business or with the FAA Certifying Member whom you have an on-going contractual relationship;
  • Primarily transit related goods and services, including concessions --- submit the DBE application to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Certifying Member closest to your primary place of business or with the FTA Certifying Member whom you have an on-going contractual relationship.

When applying to the FDOT, the complete application must be mailed or physically delivered to the Equal Opportunity Office at 605 Suwannee Street, M.S. 65, Tallahassee, Florida 32399.  All applications will be reviewed and verified.  Additional information may be requested and an on-site interview will be conducted prior to final decision.


I need help filling out the application, is there anyone I can contact?

The Department has a supportive service provider, the Construction Estimating Institute who can assist you in completing the DBE application and support documents.  Supportive service assistance is free to firms who are seeking FDOT DBE certification.  Visit their website at www.fdotdbesupportservices.com or call 800-423-7058.


What is the DBE Certification Process?

Step 1     Application is received.

Step 2     Application is checked for completeness.  If incomplete, the applicant is sent a letter requesting missing information.

Step 3     Once the application is complete an on-site review is scheduled and conducted at the applicant's office.  During the on-site review, interviews are conducted with the owners of the firm 

Step 4     All materials submitted by the applicant and the on-site report are reviewed by the DBE Certification Consultant, who determines if the applicant meets the eligibility standards.

Step 5     The DBE Certification Analyst reviews the application and makes a recommendation on the firm's eligibility for certification in the DBE program. The DBE Certification Analyst also reviews the work classification(s) requested and make a recommendation regarding the adequacy of the applicant's resources to perform in these work areas.

Step 6     If the application is approved, the applicant is notified, in writing, of the certification approval.  The certification approval letter indicates approval of the firm as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) to perform work of specific types. The firm must annually submit a No Change Declaration form and tax documentation to the FDOT Equal Opportunity Office by the certification anniversary date to remain an active DBE.

If an application is denied, the Department issues a denial letter listing the reasons for the intended denial and provides information related to the appeal process.

If an application is withdrawn, the applicant is notified, in writing, of the missing documentation and has up to one year to provide the requested information necessary to complete the application.  If the applicant fails to provide the missing information within one year, the file is then administratively closed.


How long does it take to get DBE certified?

It takes time to process an application and to approve certification.  The efforts made to submit a complete application with all the requested documentation will help decrease the processing time.  In accordance with the regulation, the Department has 90 days to process a complete application.  The processing time starts once a complete application is received.


How long does the DBE certification period last?

As long as a firm continues to meet the standards established in 49 CFR 26, DBE certification is ongoing; however, the firm is required to annually submit a No Change Declaration form by the anniversary date of certification.


How can I verify if a business is a certified DBE?

The Department maintains a DBE Directory identifying all firms eligible to participate as DBEs.  The DBE Directory lists the firm's name, address, telephone number, and the type of work the firm has been certified to perform as a DBE.  The Florida DBE UCP Directory is available to the public electronically, on the internet.  The DBE UCP Directory is updated as additions/changes are made.  The address for the DBE Directory is http://www3b.dot.state.fl.us/EqualOpportunityOfficeBusinessDirectory/ .


What are the benefits of being a certified DBE?

(1)  DBEs may be used to satisfy a DBE goal on any project with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (i.e. airports, transit agencies).

(2)  DBEs receive statewide exposure for contracting opportunities through the DBE Directory, which provides one list of all DBE firms certified in the State of Florida.  Prime contractors and consultants are strongly encouraged to use the DBE Directory to identify subcontractors/sub-consultants for their projects.

(3)  DBEs may participate in a variety of supportive services such as training and technical assistance if they are construction and consulting firms involved in a road, highway or bridge construction or maintenance related business.  Many of these services are at no cost or reduced cost to certified DBEs.


Do I have to be prequalified to be DBE certified?

No, a firm is not required to be prequalified to become DBE certified. 

Contractors must be prequalified with the Department in order to bid for the performance of road, bridge, or public transportation construction contracts greater than $250,000.00. Prequalification is accomplished by using an application process. The Contractor Prequalification process results in the issuance of a Certificate of Qualification for each successful applicant which lists the approved work classes and the Maximum Capacity Rating in dollars.  Visit the FDOT Contracts Administration website to learn more https://www3.dot.state.fl.us/ContractorPreQualification/.


Consultants are prequalified in two levels:

(1)  Unlimited - This level of qualification allows consultants to compete for any projects for which they are technically qualified with the Department. Continued qualification at this level requires annual submittal of a qualification form along with proof of insurance and an overhead audit prepared by an independent CPA.

(2)  Minor Projects Only - This level of qualification allows consultants to compete for minor projects with fees estimated at or below $250,000. Contract advertisements identify whether a contract is a minor project or a major project. Continued qualification at the minor project level requires annual submittal of a qualification form along with proof of insurance. A self-certified overhead report and statement describing the firm's accounting system is recommended, but not required. 


What are prime contractor and consultant letter grades?

The Department implemented the Contractor and Consultant Grading System in 2004-2005.  Based on the reported percentages contractors and consultants received a corresponding letter grade (A+ thru F) from the Equal Opportunity Office for anticipated DBE participation.  The Grading System strategy is used to ensure that all prime contractors and consultants are recognized regarding DBE participation, and not just those in the upper or lower percentage range.  The DBE Participation should be reported in the Equal Opportunity Compliance(EOC) system. The Prime Contractor and Consultant grades will be based on what is reported under the DBE Commitments in EOC. Therefore, we strongly encourage our Prime users to update their DBE Commitments. More information regarding EOC can be referenced at  http://www.dot.state.fl.us/equalopportunityoffice/eoc.shtm.


Both grading scales take into account the normal bell curve distribution for both groups independently.The consultant scale is higher than the contractor scale because there are a higher percentage of DBE sub-consultants available to perform work than DBE subcontractors. 



Why are there two different grading systems for prime contractors and consultants?

The grading scale for prime Consultants is higher than the one for Contractors because there is a higher percentage of DBEs that are consultants than are contractors.



How can I get more information about the DBE Program?

To obtain additional information on the Florida UCP DBE Program, contact Sammy Febres at 850-414-4745 or Victoria Smith at 850-414-4746.