What is the difference between DBE, MBE, and WBE Certification?

DBE Certification

  • Federal Certification (DOT contracts for highway, transit, and airport)
  • 51% or more owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantage individual(s)
  • Personal Net Worth not to exceed $2,047,000
  • SBA size standard (varies according to business category)

MBE and WBE Certification

  • State and Local Government Contracting Authorities

What is the Illinois Unified Certification Program (IL UCP)?

The IL UCP was developed under a mutual agreement between certifying agencies, creating “one-stop shopping” for DBE certification in Illinois. The five certifying agencies are Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), City of Chicago, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra, and Pace.  The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) is also part of the IL UCP but is a non-certifying agency.

What are the criteria for DBE certification?

Eligibility requirements for DBE certification are stated in 49 CFR Part 26, Subpart D.

The following six requirements must be proved by a DBE applicant, but they do not cover all the requirements found in 49 CFR Part 26 Subpart D.

  1. Social and Economic Disadvantage: A disadvantaged owner must be a U.S. Citizen (or lawfully admitted permanent residents) and meet the federal definition of socially and economically disadvantaged as defined in 49 CFR Part 26.67. Rebuttably presumed groups include women, Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, Subcontinent Asian Americans, or other minorities found to be disadvantaged by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Any other individual can be found to be socially and economically disadvantaged on a case-by-case basis.
  2. Personal Net Worth: Only disadvantaged persons having a personal net worth (PNW) of less than $2,047,000 can be considered as a potential qualified DBE. Items excluded from a person’s net worth calculations include an individual’s ownership interest in the applicant firm, the current value of any retirement accounts and the equity in their primary residence.
  3. Business Size Standard: A firm (including affiliates) must be a small business as defined by the Small Business Administration (SBA).  It must not have an annual gross receipts average over the previous three years exceeding $30,720,000. Depending on the type of work the business performs, other size standards apply.
  4. Ownership: Must be a for-profit small business concern whose socially and economically disadvantaged individuals own at least 51% interest, and controls AND manages daily business operations.
  5. Independence: The business must not be affiliated with another firm in such a way as to compromise its independence and control. These include, but are not limited to, such areas as personnel, facilities, equipment, financial and/or bonding support, and other resources.
  6. Management and Control: The socially and economically disadvantaged owner(s) must possess the power to direct or cause the direction of the management and polices of the firm and to make day-to-day decisions, as well as long-term decisions on matters of management, policy, and operations.

Is there a cost to the applicant for the certification process?

No, there is no cost for the processing the DBE certification application.  

My firm is an out-state business and currently seeking work in Illinois; can my firm be certified as a DBE in Illinois?

Yes, however your firm must first be certified in your home state.
Please contact Metra’s Office of Diversity & Business Enterprise at 312-322-6323 for further information regarding this process.

What is the process for DBE Certification?

The certification process begins with the submission of a complete DBE Certification application.

The following steps are taken to certify firms:

  • The information is reviewed to attest that all the necessary requirements are met.
  • A site visit and/or job site visit are scheduled to complete a standard questionnaire, tour the facility, and take pictures if applicable.
  • A decision is made, and your firm is notified of the decision via email.
  • If certified, your firm will receive a certificate, approval letter and be added to the IL UCP directory.

How long is the DBE certification process?

On average, the DBE certification process takes approximately 60-90 days from the time a complete application package and all required submittals is received by the Office of Diversity & Business Enterprise.

Do I have to submit all the required paperwork in the DBE Application Supporting Documents Checklist?

Yes, you must submit all the documents that are applicable to you and your firm. The file is not considered complete until all supporting documents are received. Failure to submit all documents can delay the certification process.

Why do I need to send all these supporting documents?

We must ascertain not only who owns the company, but also who controls it daily. Additionally, we must verify the Personal Net Worth and company size comply with federal regulations. Personal financial information is confidential to the DBE Program and may not be disclosed by us, even in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

If my business is certified as a DBE, what’s next?

Getting certified is just the first step!
1. The firm's information will be entered into the IL UCP Directory.
2. To remain in good standing all DBE firms are required to submit an annual Declaration of Eligibility (DOE).

  • This affirms that there have been no changes in the firm’s circumstances affecting its ability to meet size, disadvantaged status, ownership, control requirements or any other material changes in the information provided in the firm’s original application for certification.
  • 60 days before the annual DOE is due, the firm will receive a reminder email from our office with a copy of the DOE and a checklist of the supporting documents that need to be submitted.

3. The firm must provide written notification of any changes within thirty (30) days of the occurrence of the change.
4. Become a Registered Vendor with Metra, the process is free and simple. Once you submit your contact information and the firm’s work specialty online on Metra’s Bonfire portal you will receive notification of upcoming contracting opportunities that best match the firm’s work specialty. Click here to register.
5. Attend training and networking events. Marketing and growing your business are essential to maximizing your certification. Visit ODBE’s Outreach Calendar for an up-to-date list of upcoming events.

What are my appeal rights if I am denied DBE certification?

If you feel this agency has wrongly denied your firm, you must email the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) at within 45 days of the date of the decision, a narrative that explains fully and specifically why you believe the decision is in error, what outcome-determinative facts the certifier did not consider, and/or what part 26 provisions the certifier misapplied. Include the certifier's name, date of the certifier’s decision, and your contact information. If you do not have access to email, you may send a letter to:

U.S. Department of Transportation
Departmental Office of Civil Rights
Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program Division
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20590

Is there someone that I can speak to directly?

Yes, for questions regarding DBE Certification or to set up a free consultation, please contact our certification team:

Michele Sutton
Sr. DBE Certification Specialist