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DBE Program - Frequently Asked Questions

What does DBE stand for?

Disadvantaged Business Enterprise.

What are the program’s goals?

Expanding business opportunities for minority and woman-owned companies on federally-funded transportation projects.

How would DBE certification help my business?

DBE certification helps you compete for contracts on federally funded transportation projects in the District of Columbia, and on WMATA (Metro) projects in the entire Greater Washington, DC area. Federal law guarantees DBEs prompt payment of undisputed invoices. Your firm can also receive supportive services for free or at reduced cost.

Does my business need DBE certification to bid on federally funded highway projects?

No. But since prime contractors seek to meet federal equal opportunity goals on such projects, certification levels the playing field and helps small minority- and woman-owned businesses compete against larger, equally-qualified bidders.

Do DBEs as the prime contractor on a project meet the project's federal minority-inclusion goals?

Yes, so long as the prime contractor is certified as a DBE and not a subcontractor.

Does my business qualify?

Your firm must be an independent business owned (at least 51%) and controlled by a member or members of a socially or economically disadvantaged group. Individual owners must have a personal net worth not exceeding $1,320,000 (excluding ownership interest in the firm, retirement fund assets, and equity value of primary residence). The firm's average gross receipts over the last three years must not exceed $22.410 million. There are different size limits for various categories of businesses.

What are socially or economically disadvantaged individuals?

Socially or economically disadvantaged individuals are US citizens (or permanent residents) from the following groups: Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Asian-Pacific Americans, Subcontinent Asian Americans, and Women (as per 49 CFR Part 26 and SBA).

Any others?

Individual business owners who are not members of these groups but feel they should be certified may appeal to the US Department of Transportation External Civil Rights Programs Division within 90 days of denial of DBE status by DDOT, but they have the burden of proving that they are members of an unrecognized but disadvantaged class.

How do we apply for DBE status?

On the web, go to DDOT's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program.

From the bullet list:

  • Select DBE Online Applications.
  • Then select Become a DDOT Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE).
  • Review the topics 'Overview' and 'Requirements for Applicants' then select Online Application Form.

You may fill the DDOT Unified Certification Program (UCP) form (online) or download a copy for printing.

To request a copy contact Linda Fennell or at (202) 645-8620.

What are NAIC Codes?

NAIC codes can be viewed at The North American Industry Classification System (a US Government standard). The DBE Program follows SBA regulations in establishing small business size limits for each industry.

We have some questions about our application. Who can help?

For assistance contact Ms. Glenda Payne, (202) 671-0479. You can also contact Ms. Raegan Williams,(202) 299-2190.

Where do we submit our application and required documents?

Mail your completed application and attached copies of the required documents to:

Attention: Glenda Payne
Civil Rights Program
District Department of Transportation
55 M Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003

If you are delivering the application packet by courier or in person, our office hours are Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 5 pm.

How long does certification take?

After you submit your completed application, certification may take from 30 to 90 days, and includes a site visit. If your application is missing information or required documents, the process will take longer.

How long are certifications valid?

Until the certification is formally removed by the review panel. Certified companies are re-evaluated every three years, and must submit an annual affidavit.

Is the DBE certification needed to do business with the DC Government?

No. The Office of Contracting and Procurement handles direct purchasing for District Government. For information to assist eligible businesses, information may be found at The Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) or call (202) 727-3900.

Our organization is a nonprofit corporation. May we apply for DBE certification?

No. Applicants must qualify as 'for-profit' small businesses as defined by the US Small Business Administration (SBA).

What Supportive Services may DBE's receive?

DBE firms are listed in a database used by many prime contractors, and may take advantage of supportive services including (but not limited to):

  • updates on procurement opportunities and training activities;
  • consulting services from experts in finance, accounting, marketing and other business fields;
  • assistance in developing a business plan and identifying projects for bid, cost analysis, competitive bidding, and marketing strategies;
  • referral services to help identify sources of short or long term financing.

Where can registered DBEs get supportive services?

The address and phone number for DBE supportive services are the following:

Business Opportunity and Workforce Development Center (BOWDC)
2311 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20020

Telephone: (202) 645-8620

If your business is located outside of the District, we encourage you to seek supportive services from your home state transportation agency.

If my business is certified as a DBE or CBE by the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD), then are we already certified for DDOT's DBE program?

No. DSLBD certification will help when you bid on contracts with District Government agencies. It has no bearing on federally funded highway projects.

My business is certified as a DBE by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT). Does that mean I’m already certified for your program?

No. But your business is eligible to use an expedited process to apply for DBE certification in DC through DDOT.

My business is certified as a DBE by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Does that mean I’m already certified for your program?

No. But your business is eligible to use an expedited process to apply for DBE certification in DC through DDOT.

My business is certified as a DBE by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Does that mean I’m already certified for your program?

Yes. Check the DDOT DBE vendor database; your business should be listed there.

My business is located in DC. If we get certified as a DBE by DDOT, will we automatically be certified in other jurisdictions?

DDOT DBE certification also certifies your firm with WMATA. It makes your DC firm eligible for DBE certification in other states, but you will need to apply to each jurisdiction.

We have 8a certification from SBA. Does that mean I’m already certified for your program?

If you obtained 8a certification within the last 3 years, you may use your SBA application to apply for DDOT DBE status. DDOT may request some additional information.

My firm is located in another state, but we do a lot of business in the District of Columbia. Can we register as a DDOT DBE?

Yes, but you must register as a DBE in your home state first before you apply for DDOT registration.

Why is the District of Columbia Government helping disadvantaged businesses that are not located in DC?

The DBE program is about access to transportation projects within the District that are federally funded, chiefly through the Federal Highway Act. While DDOT and sister agency DSLBD strive to make resident businesses more competitive, these projects are federally funded, and certification must be open to qualified disadvantaged businesses from all over the nation. This also means that DDOT certified DBEs from our city may seek certification in other jurisdictions through reciprocal agreements.