USDOT Finalizes Improvements to DBE Rule

Tue June 17, 2003 - National Edition

The U.S. Department of Transportation on June 16 issued a final rule making several improvements in its disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) program.

The new provisions will make it easier for small businesses, prime contractors, and state and local governments to work with the DBE program.

“The DBE program is an important tool to ensure that there is a level playing field for all businesses who seek work in state and local transportation programs that receive DOT financial assistance, “ said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta. “It’s our responsibility to do everything we can to make the program work well for all participants.”

DOT’s DBE program is administered by state and local recipients of financial assistance from the department’s Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration and Federal Aviation Administration. The program seeks to ensure a nondiscriminatory “level playing field” for small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals in competing for DOT-assisted contracts and grants.

The new amendments reduce administrative burdens and clarify program requirements in a number of ways:

There is a new uniform application form that small businesses can use everywhere in the country to apply for DBE program eligibility.

The rule implements a memorandum of understanding between DOT and the Small Business Administration (SBA) to facilitate DBE certification for SBA-certified small disadvantaged businesses.

There is a new, simplified form that all state and local agencies in the program will use to report DBE information to the department.

State and local governments will be required to take steps to reduce burdens on prime contractors with respect to the “retainage” of funds at the conclusion of a contract.

The rule:

• implements a statutory change broadening DBE program eligibility for businesses owned by Alaska native corporations.

• increases privacy protections for confidential business information provided by DBE companies.

• eases limits on the participation of DBE trucking companies.

• clarifies provisions of the rule on such subjects as evidence of disadvantaged group status, multi-year project goals, and proof of economic disadvantage.

The action makes final a proposed rule published on May 8, 2001.