Why Getting Your Application Right the First Time Is So Important

102915172We receive calls every week from people whose DBE applications have been denied. Unfortunately, in about 95% (or more) of those cases it’s too late to help. That’s because once you’ve been denied, it’s too late to try to correct your application or provide the agency with any additional information. Once you been denied the process is closed and your only options are to wait a year to reapply (after you’ve corrected whatever issues were brought up in the denial)  or appeal the denial decision.

Under the regulations, once you are denied you have 90 days to appeal to the Department of Transportation (DOT). The DOT can take up to 180 days (6 months) to make a decision. If the DOT sides with the Agency’s denial you have to wait an additional year before you can reapply for DBE certification.
So whether you choose to wait to reapply or you appeal, one small mistake can cost you up to a year or more wait for DBE certification. It gets worse.

We have seen cases where the DOT agrees the applicant is correct on one issue but provides the Agency with another reason upon which to base a denial. We have also seen cases where the DOT will send the application back to the Agency for further review. This costs you even more time without a DBE certification. Finally, we have seen cases where even after the applicant makes all of the changes brought up in the original denial and waits a year, they are denied either for the same reason or different reasons.

When you add up the lost opportunity costs, the costs of filing an appeal, the time it costs you to prepare your application, sometimes it makes more sense to retain a firm like ours to prepare your application. After speaking to individuals whose applications have been denied, they often comment that they wished they had spoken to us before they’d applied. My advice is don’t be one of those people. Get professional help before you apply not after you’ve been denied.

Florida DBE Certification

Florida DBE Certification Resource Guide

The U. S. Department of Transportation mandates that recipients of federal financial assistance must participate in a statewide UCP (Unified Certification Program).  The UCP is meant to be a “one-stop” shop for all firms seeking the Florida DBE certification in a state. Once certified by a member the statewide UCP, a firm is certified throughout the state.

Florida DBE Certification  UCP

Florida’s UCP came into effect in July 2005. Members of Florida’s UCP come in two forms – certifying members and non-certifying members. Certifying members are those members which actually process Florida DBE Certification applications and certify firms as DBE (or ACDBEs). Non-certifying members are members who receive federal transporation dollars and utilize DBE company to statisfy their small business goals. Non-certifying members do not process Florida DBE Certification applications.

DBE Certification Florida: Road, highway and bridge

If your firm engages or intends to engage in road, highway or bridge planning design, construction or maintenance related goods and services you should submit your Florida DBE application to the Florida Department of Transporation (FDOT), regardless of where your firm is located in Florida. Submit applications to FDOT at:

Florida Department of Transportation

605 Suwannee Street, MS 65

Tallahassee FL 32399-0450

DBE Certification Florida: Airport related goods

If your firm engages or intends to engage in airport related goods and services, including concessions, you should submit your DBE application to the FAA Certifying Member located closest to your primary business or with whom you already have an ongoing contractual relationship. FAA Certifying Members include the following:

Melbourne Airport Authority

Hillsborough County Aviation Authority

Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority

Miami Dade County

Jacksonville Airport Authority

Greater Orlando Aviation Authority

St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport

Key West International & Florida Keys Marathon Airport

Palm Beach International Airport

Panama City-Bay County Airport & Industrial District

If your firm engages or intends to engage in transit related goods and services you should submit your Florida DBE Certification application to the FTA Certifying Member located closest to your primary business or with whom you already have an ongoing contractual relationship. FTA Certifying Members in Florida  who handle the Florida DBE Certification application are the following:

Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority

LYNX. Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority

Escambia County Area Transit

Collier Area Transit

Charlotte County Transit

Jacksonville Transportation Authority

Sarasota County Transportation Authority

South Florida Regional Transportation Authority

Manatee County Area Transit

Space Coast Area Transit

Palm Tran

Hillsborough Transit Authority

For help with your Florida DBE Certification application you can contact us at 305.260.1039.

Documents Needed For Your DBE Certification Application

Documents you will need to gather for your DBE Certification Application:

  1. The business tax returns for the last three years.
  2. Personal tax returns for any business owners for the last three years.
  3.  County and/or municipal occupational licenses or Business Tax Receipts.
  4. Copies of any professional licenses.
  5. Detailed resume of all owners or list of all employment for the past 10 years.
  6. Corporation Official Articles of Incorporation
  7. Photo Id for all owners (Driver’s license).
  8. Proof of citizenship or residency for all owners. (Copy of passport).
  9. Leases or sublease for the business.
  10. Any leases for business equipment.
  11. Amount of mortgage on your home. Information regarding bank including address, loan number outstanding balance.
  12. Balance of any credit card or other consumer loans. Name of banks, address etc.
  13. Copy of a cancelled company check
  14. Amount of funds in any investment accounts or bank accounts.
  15. Number of part-time and full time employees.
  16. Owners’ home phone #, cell phone #, & company fax #
  17. What did you use to start the company? County will want to see a copy of the first check deposited in the bank account.
  18. Do you use an outside firm for management or payroll? If yes, name of company and contact information.
  19. What were the Company’s three largest contracts over the past 3 years? For each, I need the name of the owner, location of the company, type of work performed and the dollar value of the contract.
  20. What are the three largest contracts you are currently working. For each, I need the name of the owner, location of the company, type of work performed, the dollar value of the contract, the project start date and the anticipated completion date.
  21. Year end balance sheets for the company for the past three years.
  22. Bank authorization and signatory cards.

For help with your Florida DBE Certification application you can contact us at (305) 755-9551

My DBE Certification Application has been denied! Now what?

My DBE Certification Application has been denied! Now what?

You’ve spent days, if not weeks and months, putting together your DBE certification application and now you’ve learned that your DBE application has been denied. Now what do you do?

First, read the letter you received from the certifying agency carefully. The reason for the denial will be set forth in the letter you received. There are many reasons why your application could have been denied. Typically, denials fall into the following four categories.

1.         You do not meet the eligibility requirements of the program such as; Business Size, Minority Status or Personal Net Worth.

2.         You failed to show that you control the company.

3.         You fail to show that you independently run the company.

4.         You failed to cooperate by not providing requested documents.

Depending on the reason for your denial, you may want to appeal the denial decision.

Filing an Appeal

Your administrative appeal with the Department of Transportation’s Departmental Office of Civil Rights must be filed within 90 days from the date of denial. In some states, you may have the opportunity to appeal your case to a state entity, for  example,  the  Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) in Florida.

How to file an appeal after being denied DBE certification by a DOT recipient:

To file a DBE certification appeal, firms should send a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The appeal should at a minimum include information and arguments concerning why the recipient’s decision should be reversed, a copy of the denial letter, and any additional information you believe to be pertinent to the appeal. Firms must provide the name(s) and address(es) of any DOT recipient the firm is currently certified with; or who has rejected its application for certification; or removed the firm’s eligibility within one year prior to the date of the appeal. This includes applications currently pending certification action.

All appeals should be submitted to:

U.S. Department of Transportation
Departmental Office of Civil Rights
External Civil Rights Programs Division (S-33)
1200 New Jersey Ave., S.E.
Washington, DC 20590
Phone: (202) 366-4754     TTY: (202) 366-9696
Fax: (202) 366-5575

Firms can file appeals on their own behalf.  However, we recommend that you retain an attorney who understands the rules and regulations governing the DBE program to represent you.  Hiring an attorney who understands the requirements of the DBE program can be the most cost-effective decision you can make.  At DBE Direct, we understand the DBE program and its requirements because we regular assist clients in the preparation of their DBE applications. Since we understand the rules, we know when an appeal should be taken and when in an appeal should not be taken.

We will review your denial letter and your application and determine whether the denial was justified. If the denial was proper, we will determine whether an opportunity to be certified in the future is possible. If we don’t think your firm meets the requirements of the program, we will let you know so you don’t unnecessarily expend time, energy, and financial resources towards obtaining certification. If we think you can be certified in the future, we will recommend ways to adjust your business so you can reapply when the time comes.

If denial was improper, we will review the case law and decisions to draft an appeal brief explaining why denial was improper and why the denial decision should be reversed or remanded.

When all else fails,  it may be necessary to file suit to reverse the denial decision. In that case, our litigation department is well prepared to represent you in court. By hiring an attorney who understands the program we can ensure that a record is created that will help you win your case in court.

At DBE Direct, we have experience representing clients in both formal and informal DBE certification denial appeals. If your firm has been denied DBE certification and you wish to appeal, please contact us at (305) 755-9551.

DBE Certification New York

The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) regulation requires that each state have a “one-stop shopping” certification process. This means firms apply to only one agency for DBE certification, and that agency’s decision is honored by all other DBE certifying agencies (see below) and all entities within the state that receive funds from the United States Department of Transportation. The  New York State Unified Certification Program (NYSUCP) began to operate November 30, 2005. There are four agencies in New York State that administer a DBE certification program. They are:

Office of Civil Rights
2 Broadway, 16th Floor
New York, NY 10004-9256
Telephone: (646) 252-1378
Fax: (646) 252-1350
cgreene@mtahq.org

Small Business Programs
New York, NY 10003
Telephone: (212) 435-7817
Fax: (212) 435-7828

Equal Employment Opportunity/Diversity Development Department
181 Ellicott Street
Buffalo, NY 14203
Telephone: (716) 855-7489
Fax: (716) 855-7657
linda_seay@nfta.com

Contract Audit Bureau
DBE Certification
50 Wolf Road, 1st Floor
Albany, NY 12232
Telephone: (518) 457-3180
Fax: (518) 457-1675
jejones@dot.state.ny.us

What is a Concession under the ACDBE regulations?

The Regulations that govern the ACDBE program define “Concession” to mean one or more of the following types of for-profit businesses:

(1) A business, located in an airport, that is engaged in the sale of consumer goods or services to the public under an agreement with the airport, another concessionaire, or the owner or lessee of a terminal, if other than the airport.

(2) A business conducting one or more of the following covered activities, even if it does not maintain an office, store, or other business location on an airport, as long as the activities take place on the airport: Management contracts and subcontracts, a web-based or other electronic business in a terminal or which passengers can access at the terminal, an advertising business that provides advertising displays or messages to the public on the airport, or a business that provides goods and services to concessionaires.

The Regulation provides the following example to paragraph (2):   A supplier of goods or a management contractor maintains its office or primary place of business off the airport. However the supplier provides goods to a retail establishment in the airport; or the management contractor operates the parking facility on the airport. These businesses are considered concessions for purposes of ACDBE program.

(3) A business is not considered to be “located on the airport” solely because it picks up and/or delivers customers under a permit, license, or other agreement. For example, providers of taxi, limousine, car rental, or hotel services are not considered to be located on the airport just because they send shuttles onto airport grounds to pick up passengers or drop them off. A business is considered to be “located on the airport,” however, if it has an on-airport facility. Such facilities include in the case of a taxi operator, a dispatcher; in the case of a limousine, a booth selling tickets to the public; in the case of a car rental company, a counter at which its services are sold to the public or a ready return facility; and in the case of a hotel operator, a hotel located anywhere on airport property.

(4) A concession may be operated under various types of agreements, including but not limited to the following:

(i) Leases.

(ii) Subleases.

(iii) Permits.

(iv) Contracts or subcontracts.

(v) Other instruments or arrangements.

(5) The conduct of an aeronautical activity is not necessarily considered a concession for  purposes of the ACDBE program. Aeronautical activities include scheduled and non-scheduled air carriers, air taxis, air charters, and air couriers, in their normal passenger or freight carrying capacities; fixed base operators; flight schools; recreational service providers ( e.g., sky-diving, parachute-jumping, flying guides); and air tour services.

(6) Other examples of entities that do not meet the definition of a concession include flight kitchens and in-flight caterers servicing air carriers, government agencies, industrial plants, farm leases, individuals leasing hangar space, custodial and security contracts, telephone and electric service to the airport facility, holding companies, and skycap services under contract with an air carrier or airport.

At DBE Direct, we are prepared to assist eligible firms in obtaining ACDBE certification, appealing certification denials, defending eligible firms in bid protests or initiating bid protests against firms not eligible to participate in the program. If you are interested in obtaining ACDBE certification or have questions or concerns about the program please call us at (305) 755-9551.