Transportation Department proposes improvements to disadvantaged business program regulations

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On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced it would be modernizing the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and Airport Concession DBE (ACDBE) program regulations.

Part of the federal government’s commitment to advancing equity and ensuring access to contracting opportunities, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the programs would seek to prevent discrimination and remedy continuing effects of past discrimination against small businesses owned and controlled by disadvantaged individuals.

“For far too long, small and disadvantaged businesses have faced discrimination that costs them economic opportunities,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “These critical updates would help ensure that small and disadvantaged businesses continue to have a fair chance to compete for federally assisted contracts.”

Modernizing the regulations would help to further level the playing field for small, disadvantaged businesses looking to compete for federally assisted aviation, highway and transit contract, as well as airport concession opportunities. The changes will play a role in helping build infrastructure through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the agency said.

The proposed rules were crafted with feedback from a broad range of stakeholders, the agency said, and after internal research into the ACDBE program regulation updates in 2012 and the DBE program regulation updates in 2014.

The proposed updates include increasing the personal net worth limit from $1.32 million to $1.6 million; amending overly prescriptive ownership and control certification eligibility requirements; simplifying interstate certification processes; and formally adopting COVID-19 flexibilities, such as virtual on-site visits, among other changes.

The proposed rule changes are open to public comment through Sept. 19, 2022.