The U.S. Department of Transportation 

Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program

Administered by the Idaho Transportation Department

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Goals of the DBE Program:

  • To ensure non-discrimination in the award and administration of USDOT-assisted contracts;

  • To create a level playing field on which DBEs can compete fairly for USDOT-assisted contracts;

  • To ensure that the DBE Program is narrowly tailored in accordance with applicable law;

  • To ensure that only firms that fully meet 49 CFR 26 eligibility standards are permitted to participate as DBEs;

  • To help remove barriers to the participation of DBEs in USDOT-assisted contracts; and

  • To assist the development of firms that can compete successfully in the market place outside the DBE Program.


What is a DBE?

A DBE is a small, for-profit business concern that is at least 51% owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.


What does it take to be a DBE?

  • The firm must be an existing, "for profit” business that is operational.

  • The firm must be an independent business; if it is a subsidiary of a corporation, it must still operate in a self-sufficient manner.

  • The firm must meet the federal definition of a "small business concern."

  • Owners must meet the federal definition of "socially and economically disadvantaged" (Women, minorities, or individuals who can document their disadvantage; all must also demonstrate that their adjusted personal net worth is no more than $1.32 Million).

  • Owners must possess the power and expertise to control the daily operations and management of the firm.

  • Owners must be able to establish at least 51% ownership through real and substantial investments of capital.

If any one of these conditions is not met, certification cannot be granted.


The Certification Process

To guarantee that this program benefits only legitimate disadvantaged business enterprises, ITD’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Office thoroughly evaluates each applicant firm before certifying to ensure that it meets all the eligibility criteria requirements set by federal regulations.

Firms requesting DBE certification must submit a complete application with supporting documentation to DBE Supportive Services. After all requested materials have been provided, an on-site review of the firm will be performed by ITD’s District personnel. Finally, a DBE Certification Committee reviews the application to determine eligibility.

Depending on the number of pending applications already in process, it typically takes a minimum of eight weeks to process an application.

Out-of-state firms must be DBE-certified in their home state before seeking certification in the State of Idaho.


DBE Supportive Services

ITD's DBE Supportive Services provides many types of technical assistance to DBEs. In order to achieve the maximum feasible portion of ITD's annual DBE Goal through race/gender-neutral methods, many of these services are available to both certified DBEs and other non-DBE, transportation-related small businesses, free of charge.


A Brief History of the DBE Program

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT)’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program is its most important tool for ensuring that firms competing for USDOT-assisted contracts are not disadvantaged by unlawful discrimination.

This program originally began in 1980 as a minority business enterprise program. In 1983, Congress enacted the first statutory DBE provision, applying primarily to small minority-owned firms. In 1987, the program was expanded to women-owned firms.

Initially, the Surface Transportation Assistant Act (STURRA) of 1982, and subsequent transportation acts such as the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991, directed that -- to the fullest extent possible -- at least 10% of Federal-Aid highway funds be expended with small, disadvantaged business enterprises.

However, in 1999, new DBE program regulations were implemented that changed the direction of the program from the old philosophy of "maximum participation" by DBEs on USDOT-assisted contracts to that of creating a "level playing field" for DBEs to compete fairly for procurement opportunities. These program changes were in response to the Supreme Court's 1995 decision in Adarand v. Peņa that affirmative action programs be "narrowly tailored to serve a compelling governmental interest," that of addressing discrimination.

Each USDOT recipient (state DOTs such as the Idaho Transportation Department) now has the responsibility for developing an overall annual contract goal which reflects the level of DBE participation expected on USDOT-assisted contracts in the absence of discrimination.


Interested in certifying as a DBE firm in the State of Idaho? 

Click here to request an application or for more information, or download the application as a pdf file.