FAQ


General Questions, Complaint and Fraud

What are the acronyms: ACDBE, DBE, DVBE, LBE, MBE, SBE, SDB, UDBE, WBE, and 8(a)?

    ACDBE = Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, a program implemented by local agencies pursuant to federal regulations, Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 23 (49 CFR Part 23). This program applies to contracts and concessions administered by airports that receive financial assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration.

    DBE = Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, a program implemented by local agencies and state departments of transportation pursuant to federal regulations 49 CFR Part 26. This program applies to all contracts financed in whole or in part by the Federal Transit Administration or Federal Highway Administration.

    DVBE = Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise, a program implemented by the State of California, Department of General Services (DGS). This program applies to contracts issued and financed by the State of California.

    LBE = Local Business Enterprise, a type of program implemented by some municipalities to encourage local economic development. These programs apply only to contracts funded by the specific municipality. Eligibility requirements for LBE certification vary between municipalities and some municipalities do not operate a LBE program.

    MBE = Minority Business Enterprise, a type of program implemented by some municipalities and private industry to encourage supplier diversity. Eligibility requirements for MBE certification vary between programs depending on the criteria established by the agency or company implementing such program.

    SBE = Small Business Enterprise, a type of program implemented by some agencies, including the California Department of General Services to promote small business development. Eligibility requirements for SBE certification vary between programs depending on the criteria established by the agency implementing such program. A popular SBE program is implemented by the California Department of General Services (DGS) and applies to contracts issued and financed by the State of California. Some local agencies may accept firms certified by DGS for their local program purposes while others may not have an SBE program at all.

    SDB = Small Disadvantaged Business, a program implemented by the US Small Business Administration (SBA) and applies to contracts issued directly by a federal procurement agency. More information on the SDB Program can be found on the SDB section of the SBA website.

    UDBE = Underutilized Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, a terminology used by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to identify those DBE firms that are underutilized in public contracts and are afforded remedies such as contract-specific UDBE utilization goals. UDBE goals may be imposed on all federal highway-aid contracts, including those administered by a local agency. Current DBE firms whose owners are members of one of the following groups are automatically determined to be an UDBE: African American, Asian-Pacific American, Native American, or Women. (Please note there is no separate certification process or certificate for UDBEs aside from the DBE program.)

    WBE = Women Business Enterprise, a type of program implemented by some municipalities and private industry to encourage supplier diversity. Eligibility requirements for WBE certification vary between programs depending on the criteria established by the agency or company implementing such program.

    8(a) = Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act authorizes SBA to contract for goods and services with federal agencies and then subcontract actual performance of the work to 8(a) certified firms. More information about the 8(a) program can be found on the SBA website.

I am trying to figure out if this program is only for small disadvantaged firms, or for small firms as well as disadvantaged firms. Can you help me with this distinction?

    The CUCP certifies businesses for participation in the U.S. Department of Transportation Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program. A "DBE" is defined as a small business concern that is at least 51% owned by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged individuals and whose management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more of the socially and economically disadvantaged owners. Accordingly, the DBE program is intended for small disadvantaged firms, and is not intended simply for small firms that do not include a social and economic disadvantaged element. For additional information about the DBE program, please visit the U.S. Department of Transportation website at: www.osdbu.dot.gov/DBEProgram/index.cfm.

Do I need to submit my DBE application to all the transit agencies I want to do business with?

    No. The CUCP is a statewide program offering "one-stop shopping." Once you have submitted your application to one certifying agency, you do not need to submit an application to any other agency. Once approved, your certification will be accepted by all agencies administering contracts funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

I am a certified DBE. Can I participate on Caltrans contracts?

    DBE certification is not a precondition to competing on Caltrans, or any other agency, contracts. Your firm should bid on contracts regardless of certification. The DBE program is a Federal program that applies to all agencies that receive U.S. Department of Transportation financial assistance. These agencies include municipalities, special districts, airports, and Caltrans, among others. If your firm is certified as a DBE by one of the CUCP certifying agencies, then your firm can participate as a DBE in all USDOT-assisted contract opportunities awarded in California, regardless of the awarding body.

How can I find out about contracting opportunities with the CUCP agencies?

    CUCP agencies welcome your business. Please visit both certifying and non-certifying CUCP agency websites to learn about doing business with the individual agencies. Most agencies publish their contracting opportunities on their websites.

How do I advertise for bids wanted from WBEs/MBEs?

    The CUCP was formed in accordance with U.S. Department of Transportation regulations regarding the DBE program. The CUCP does not operate a WBE or MBE program, but highly encourage you to solicit DBEs for your projects. If you are interested in seeking DBEs, please query the statewide DBE database found on this website. Query results will provide contact information of DBEs, including telephone and fax numbers, and email addresses when available. If you are seeking specifically WBEs or MBEs for subcontract opportunities, we suggest that you consult with the owner of the project to determine appropriate venues or publications acceptable to them.

How would I go about filing a complaint regarding DBE certified firms who are not authorized to provide the applicable professional services, such as those regulated by the California Board of Professional Engineers?

    A complaint or third party challenge regarding the eligibility of a particular firm may be filed with the certifying agency that performed the firm's certification. Please search the DBE database for the firm in question and determine the agency that certified the firm. Contact information for each certifying agency is available on this website.


DBE/ACDBE Eligibility

What is the difference between DBE and ACDBE certification?

    Prior to March 2005, USDOT Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) program for airport concessions was directed to assist certified DBEs. The new regulations of March 22, 2005 (Title 49 CFR Part 23), now refer to the participation of ACDBE, focusing on concession and car rental activities at airports receiving federal financial assistance from FAA. This change from DBE to ACDBE was initiated because of the different kinds of airport businesses and the distinct cap on average annual gross receipts of $52.47 million. Whereas, the DBE program for 49 CFR Part 26 focused on construction and design related contracts, and lower size standard of average annual gross receipts of $22.41 million.

    These types of relationships between airports and businesses, and the substantive differences in regulatory statutes, such as the business size standard and types of businesses (e.g. concessions) are different from Part 26. For these reasons, USDOT decided to keep the two regulations (Part 26 and Part 23) separate to avoid confusion.

    If a DBE is certified under Part 26 and provides restaurant equipment to an airport restaurant, it must meet the general Part 23 size standards (1) to be an eligible ACDBE, and (2) to allow the airport to count their purchases toward the airport's annual ACDBE goals.

Do I have to get certified as an ACDBE to participate in the airport concession program?

    No, your firm does not have to be certified as ACDBE in order to participate in the airport concession program. Anyone who meets the minimum qualifications of the concession requirements can participate. In order to be counted toward the airport's annual ACDBE goals and/or any specific ACDBE goal on the concession opportunity, your firm has to be a certified ACDBE at the time of bid award.

Do I have to get certified as a DBE to participate in a contract administered by a CUCP participating agency?

    No, DBE certification is not a prerequisite to doing business with any of the CUCP participating agencies. Each agency that receives USDOT funding, however, is required to establish an annual overall DBE participation goal, and is expected to achieve this goal with the participation of certified DBEs on contracts. A percentage goal for DBE participation may be required on specific contracts, which is clearly stipulated at the time a contract is publicly advertised. The CUCP participating agencies encourage the small businesses to compete for public contracts regardless of certification status.

Could you clarify the gross receipts requirement?

    To be eligible for DBE certification the applicant firm must pass two gross receipts tests.

    First, a firm (including its affiliates) must be an existing small business as defined by SBA standards. SBA business size standards (found in 23 CFR Part 121) vary according to the type of work the firm seeks to perform in USDOT-assisted contracts. For example, specialty trade contractors have a size standard of $14 million while engineering and professional services firms generally have a size standard of $4.5 million. The size standard for heavy construction is as high as $33.5 million while number of employees, rather than gross receipts, determines the size standard for manufacturers.

    Second, even if the firm meets the SBA requirements, a firm would not be an eligible DBE in any federal fiscal year if the firm (including its affiliates) has had average annual gross receipts over the firm's previous three fiscal years in excess of $22.41 million. (USDOT may adjust this dollar amount for inflation from time to time.)

    A table of SBA size standards is located at www.sba.gov/content/table-small-business-size-standards.

How long does it take to be certified? How can I check the status of my certification application?

    The timeframe to certify a firm varies widely as no two businesses are alike. Federal regulations require certifying agencies to complete analysis of an application within ninety days after receipt of a completed application package, which must include all supporting documentation. An on-site visit is a mandatory part of the program and this usually requires a long lead time.

    In the past few years, several certifying agencies have terminated their certification activities and transferred their files to other agencies, resulting in an application backlog in some instances. To check the status of your application, please contact the certifying agency where you submitted your application.

Do I need to recertify every three years?

    No. In order to assure continuing DBE status, you must submit annually a No Change Declaration form (which will be sent to you by the agency that handles your application), along with supporting documentation. Based on your annual submission that no change in ownership and control has occurred, or if changes have occurred, they do not affect your firm's DBE standing, the DBE certification of your firm will continue until or unless it is removed by the certifying agency.

I submitted the annual No Change Declaration but have not heard whether I have been recertified. When should I expect to receive notice?

    Pursuant to DBE regulations, your firm's DBE status does not expire. Your certification remains valid without further notice from the CUCP as long as you continue to adhere to program requirements, such as submitting the annual declaration and supporting documents, and attesting that you continue to meet eligibility requirements. To confirm your firm's continuing DBE status, please review your firm's profile in the DBE database.

What is the maximum personal net worth to qualify for the DBE or ACDBE (Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) program? I thought I heard that the cap had been increased to $1,320,000.

    Effective February 28 2011, USDOT issued final rules for 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 26 that increased the personal net worth limit for the DBE program from $750,000 to $1.32 million.

    Effective June 20, 2012, USDOT also amended the personal net worth limit for the ACDBE program from $750,000 to $1.32 million. Applicants should note, however, that USDOT suspended the future use of the exemption from an owner's personal net worth calculation of up to $3 million in an owner's assets used as collateral for financing a concession in the ACDBE program. This suspension is to remain in effect until further notice.

    You can follow the events of USDOT regarding their DBE/ACDBE program by periodically visiting our website or those of USDOT at www.osdbu.dot.gov/DBEprogram/index.cfm.

Can a new business be certified?

    Yes, a new business may apply anytime. There is no minimum number of years of business ownership required in the DBE program. The disadvantaged owner, however, must be able to demonstrate that s/he is capable of performing in the industry for which s/he is seeking to obtain DBE certification; and making managerial and technical decisions to the degree that s/he controls the firm. The applicant firm should be in a position to conduct business, if not already performing work, possessing appropriate resources, licenses, etc., and should not be in its planning stage.

Can anyone help me to complete the DBE application?

    Staff at the agency where you plan to submit your application should be able to answer basic questions. If you require more in-depth one-on-one assistance, you may contact one of the following organizations:

    * Southwest Small Business Transportation Resource Center (SBTRC) at (916) 443-5957. The SBTRC is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business, to assist small businesses.

    * Northern California Minority Business Enterprise Center, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce. They provide certification and other technical assistance to minority owned businesses and can be reached at www.mbda.gov/businesscenters/sanjose.

    * Local Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, offer certification and other management and technical assistance to small businesses. Additional information about SBDCs may be found at www.sba.gov.

My wife and I are owners of a business. Since we are partners and consider each other 50% owners, how do we fill out the DBE application? I understand from the form that someone has to be 51% owner. We are both Hispanic and meet all of the other criteria.

    In order to participate in the CUCP DBE program, an applicant firm must be at least 51 percent owned by one or more individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged. If you and your spouse own 100 percent of your business and both are socially and economically disadvantaged, then your firm meets the ownership requirement for DBE consideration.

I am a Caucasian male and lost all of my sight three years ago. What are the prospects of a firm that is owned and operated 100% by a disabled owner qualifying as a DBE?

    In order for a firm to qualify as a DBE, the applicant firm's majority owner(s) must be economically and socially disadvantaged. Economic disadvantage is determined by an owner's personal net worth, which cannot exceed $1.32 million net of some regulatory exclusions.

    Social disadvantage is determined by an owner's membership in a rebuttably presumed disadvantaged group (such as Black Americans or women), or an individual showing on a case-by-case basis that the owner has experienced substantial and chronic social disadvantage in American society. If you are not a member of a presumed disadvantaged group, you may be able to apply for DBE status by making an individual showing of social disadvantage. Please refer to 49 Code of Federal Regulations section 26.67(d) and Appendix E to Part 26 for additional information about individual determinations of social and economic disadvantage.


UDBE Eligibility

How do I obtain UDBE certification? Is there a UDBE directory or database? Why do some contracts have UDBE goals?

    All UDBEs are DBEs. The term UDBE is used to identify those DBE firms that are underutilized in public contracts and are afforded remedies such as contract-specific UDBE utilization goals. Current DBE firms whose owners are members of one of the following groups are automatically determined to be UDBE: Black American, Asian-Pacific Islander American, Native American, or Women. There is no separate UDBE certification as every firm submits the same application for DBE certification.

    In addition, there is no separate UDBE certificate issued to UDBE firms. To confirm a firm's UDBE status, please access the DBE database and refer to the race and/or gender fields on the firm's profile.

    Please note that effective June 15, 2012, Caltrans will no longer establish UDBE goals on its Federal-aid contracts. Instead, DBE goals (which include Hispanic Americans and Subcontinent Asian-Americans previously omitted from the UDBE program) will be established on Federal-aid contracts that warrant a contract goal. Similarly, effective June 30, 2012, local agencies that receive federal-aid from Caltrans will no longer establish UDBE goals on its Federal-aid contracts but will, instead, establish DBE goals pursuant to Caltrans DBE program requirements.

    For additional information on UDBE program changes, please see industry announcement.


Changes after Certification

My firm name/address/email/etc. has changed. How may I make changes to my DBE database listing?

    Please notify in writing the agency that certified your firm. The agency is listed on your certification document. You can also locate your certifying agency by reviewing your online profile on the DBE database.

My firm has gone out of business. How can I have information deleted from the DBE database?

    Notify in writing the agency that certified your firm. The agency is listed on your certification document or you can access your profile from the online DBE database.


Out-of-state Certification

If I am certified as a DBE and/or ACDBE in California, can I participate in the DBE/ACDBE program in another state?

    Yes, but you may be required to apply for DBE or ACDBE status in the state in which you wish to do business. Federal regulations allow each state discretion to either accept or reject the certification performed by another state. At the very least, your firm must be certified in your home state before another state can consider your participation with them.

My firm is a California business. How do I get certified in another state?

    In order to apply to another state, your firm must first be certified in your home state of California. Then you may apply for certification in other states. Typically this means sending your home state DBE application to the new state for review and, in all likelihood, the new state will contact your California certifying agency for a copy of the on-site visit report. Each state, however, currently has discretion over their out-of-state certification process and you should inquire with the new state as to what they will need from you. To find contact information for the state in which you want to do business, go to www.osdbu.dot.gov/DBEProgram/StateDOTDBESites.cfm.

If I am certified as a DBE/ACDBE in another state, can I participate in the DBE/ACDBE program in California?

    Yes, but you must also be certified by the California Unified Certification Program (CUCP) as an out-of-state DBE or ACDBE. The CUCP implements a two-page declaration form for out-of-state firms certified in their home state. The declaration form basically asks for a complete copy of your home state application package along with your declaration that what has been submitted to California is identical to the information submitted to your home state. The short form is available on the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) website or may be downloaded here.

My firm is located in another state. How do I get certified in California?

    In order to apply to California, your firm must be a current DBE participant in your home state. If you meet this requirement, you may apply to California by submitting a two-page declaration form and attaching a complete copy of your home state DBE application package. The CUCP Out-of-State Declaration Form is available here.

    All out-of-state applications are processed by the California Department of Transportation. Please submit your application to:

    California DOT
    Office of Business & Economic Opportunity - MS 79
    Attn: Certification Unit
    1823 14th Street
    Sacramento, CA 95814

What is required to become authorized to do business in the State of California?

    The answer depends on a number of factors, including whether licensing is required (as in the case of engineers, lawyers, etc.), whether your firm maintains a physical presence in California, hires and retains employees in California, or conducts intrastate business, among others. We are unable to offer any substantive advice (and suggest you consult a legal advisor), but the internet sites listed below may be of interest.

    * California Governor's Office of Economic Development: business.ca.gov

    * California permit and license inquiry: www.calgold.ca.gov

    * California Secretary of State FAQ on foreign business entities: www.sos.ca.gov/business/be/faqs.htm#form-question7


Reciprocal Certification

Can I use my DBE/ACDBE certification to satisfy SBE, MBE, WBE and/or DVBE requirements?

    Generally, No. These are separate programs with different certification requirements. For example, DBE certification has a small business size standard that is defined by the U.S. Small Business Administration, up to a maximum threshold level of $22.41 million in revenues. ACDBE certification has an even higher threshold. On the other hand, the California Department of General Services, Office of Small Business and DVBE Certification certifies an SBE with a maximum size threshold of $14 million in revenues.

    The DBE and ACDBE programs also limit the owner's personal net worth to be no greater than a statutory amount while other programs, such as SBE, do not impose a personal net worth limit.

    Some agencies (including municipalities and private industry), however, may accept DBE certification in lieu of their own certification program. Interested bidders should check with the specific agency regarding certification acceptance.

Can I use my SBE, MBE, WBE, and/or other certificate to participate in the USDOT DBE/ACDBE program?

    No. Because of different certification and eligibility requirements, you must be certified as a DBE/ACDBE by a CUCP Certifying Agency in order to participate in the USDOT DBE/ACDBE program.

Is there a streamlined DBE certification process for firms that are already SBE and SLBE certified firms?

    No. SBE and SLBE (presumably small local business enterprise) are programs that are not recognized for a streamlined process. SBE programs do not consider social and economic disadvantaged criteria or personal net worth limitations, factors that are central to the DBE program.

We are certified as a MBE/WBE/DVBE through the Supplier Clearinghouse. Do we need to go through the whole application process to get a DBE certification, or is there a streamlined process?

    The State of California Public Utilities Commission program managed by the Supplier Clearinghouse differs from the DBE program in a number of ways, including differences in eligibility standards and the requirement for on-site visits. Federal DBE regulations, for example, require an analysis of an owner's personal net worth while the Supplier Clearinghouse does not. Because of these differences, there is no streamlined process for Supplier Clearinghouse verified firms.

My company is certified through the California State Department of General Services (DGS). Is this certification reciprocal with the CUCP?

    The DGS SBE/DVBE certification is not reciprocal with the CUCP DBE program because these programs have different eligibility requirements. Neither of DGS's SBE or DVBE certification programs, for example, considers economic disadvantaged criteria, a critical element of the DBE program.

Is this the program I would use to get our state Woman-owned Business Enterprise (WBE) or Minority-owned Business Enterprise (MBE) certification?

    The CUCP only certifies Disadvantaged Business Enterprises for participation in the U.S. Department of Transportation DBE Program. If you are interested in obtaining WBE or MBE certification in California, you may want to visit the following websites for additional information:

    * California Public Utilities Commission Supplier Clearinghouse: www.thesupplierclearinghouse.com

    * Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC): www.wbenc.org

    * National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC): www.nmsdc.org

    * California Department of Transportation (Caltrans): www.caltrans.ca.gov (search for "SWBE" or "SMBE")

    Please note we are not affiliated with nor do we endorse those private entities mentioned above, but their websites have been provided for your information.