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 $1,320,000
  • 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, City of Chicago, 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 resident alien) and meet the federal definition of socially and economically disadvantaged as defined in 49 CFR Part 26.67. Presumptive groups include women, Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, Subcontinent Asian-Americans, or other minorities found to be disadvantaged by the regulations or any individual 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 $1,320,000 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 and his/her 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 annual gross receipts over $30,720,000 in the previous three years. Depending on the type of work the business performs, other size standards may apply.
  4. Ownership: Must be a for-profit small business concern whose socially and economically disadvantaged individuals own at least 51% interest, control management AND 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. The only cost associated with certification is for notarizing the 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 of 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 and approval letter of the DBE Certification. The firm will be added to the IL UCP directory.

How long is the DBE certification process?

On average, the DBE certification process is 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 have to ascertain not only who owns the company, but also who controls it on a daily basis. Additionally, we have to verify the Personal Net Worth and company size in order to comply with federal regulations. Personal financial information is confidential to the DBE Program and may not be disclosed otherwise 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 No Change Affidavit.
    1. This affirms that there have been no changes in the firm’s circumstances affecting its ability to meet size, disadvantaged status, ownership, or control requirements or any other material changes in the information provided in the firm’s application for certification.
    2. 60 days before the annual No Change Affidavit is due, you will receive an email from our office notifying you of the due date and required supporting documents that need to be submitted.
  3. During the period that a firm is certified, 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. By submitting your contact information and your company’s services/goods online at you will receive notification of upcoming IFBs and RFPs that match your submission. 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?

Any firm or complainant may appeal our decision in writing to:

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