Criteria to Become a CERTIFIED Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE) or a Small Disadvantaged Business 

Ownership- Your business must be 51% owned by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual(s). The business must be a for-profit enterprise which physically resides in the United States or one of its territories.

"Disadvantaged"- You may be eligible if you are a member of a group of persons considered as disadvantaged. Certain groups are presumed disadvantaged, including women, Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, Subcontinent Asian-Pacific Americans, or other minorities found to be disadvantaged by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Persons who are not members of one of the above groups and own and control their business may also be eligible if they establish their "social" and "economic" disadvantage. For example, people with disabilities have disproportionately low incomes and high rates of unemployment, and that many may be socially and economically disadvantaged. A determination of whether an individual with a disability meets DBE eligibility criteria is made on a case-by-case basis. More information on how social and economic disadvantage is determined can be found in  Appendix E  to  49 C.F.R. Part 26.

  • Business Size Determination- A firm (including its affiliates) must be a small business as defined by SBA standards. It must not have annual gross receipts over $23.98 million in the previous three fiscal years ($56.42 million for airport concessionaires in general with some exceptions). Under SAFETEA-LU, this threshold will be adjusted annually for inflation by the Secretary.
  • Personal Net Worth- Only disadvantaged persons having a personal net worth of less than $1.32 million can be considered as a potential qualified DBE. Items excluded from a person's net worth calculation include an individual's ownership interest in the applicant firm, and his or her equity in their primary residence. 
  • Each owner will need to complete a Statement of Disadvantage and a Personal Financial Statement
  • Independence- The business must not be tied to another firm 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 initial burden of proof regarding their eligibility and must demonstrate that they meet all requirements concerning group membership or individual disadvantage, business size, ownership, and control.

DBE requirements are under the direct jurisdiction of the United States Department of Transportation (US DOT), which is why the process is uniform in every single state. The US DOT is responsible for setting DBE utilization goals and implementation of the program. Generally, certification is done at the local or regional level at your individual local or state's Department of Transportation.

Disclaimer: The following are the MINIMUM basic requirements for certification, and in no way guarantee your company will be a successful candidate for certification. Additionally, each certifying agency may have different criteria standards and eligibility rules. Other criteria and standards exist for each industry, annual sales, number of employees, etc., etc. If you are applying to a local government entity, we have found on occasion, that the length of time it takes to acquire certification can be inconsistent and that the final status of an application can be offset by other determining factors.

Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE)