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Update, DBE Programs and Best Practices

In the “Update on the ­Federal DBE Program” Annual Meeting ­session, federal, state and local DBE program administrators provided overviews on key program elements and recent changes, including payment requirements.

Linda Ford, FTA associate administrator for civil rights, said one of the most important program changes was the reinforcement of prompt payment requirements. New guidance requires the prime contractor to bill on a regular cycle when entering into a contract. It also requires a public transit agency to ensure that prime contractors are promptly paying upon their receipt of progress payments.

Ford pointed out that a number of states have even more stringent prompt payment regulations than the federal requirements. In those cases, the more stringent requirements need to be applied to comply with both the federal and state regulations.

Angela de la Rosa, certification manager, centralized certification administration, Los Angeles World Airports, spoke about their process for overseeing DBE certification and participation in the California Unified Certification Program (CUCP), which she called a “one-stop shopping” program. The CUCP eliminates the need for a DBE to obtain certifications from multiple agencies within the state. (For details, click here.)

California’s statewide database includes certified firms eligible for contracts as well as those suspended from program participation. She also noted that many of the participating agencies are transportation authorities.

Tashai R. Smith, deputy executive officer, diversity and economic opportunity department, LA Metro, discussed her agency’s successful Small Business Enterprise (SBE) Program, which paves the way for small businesses to bid on and win non-federally funded contracts as prime contractors.

SBE set-aside applicable contracts enable small businesses to compete only against other small businesses for projects up to $5 million, as well as projects under $100,000, she explained. Only LA Metro-certified SBEs can participate in the SBE Program. LA Metro has created an online vendor portal of contracting opportunities and programs accessible here.

Janice R. Thomas, senior director, office of business diversity and civil rights, Metra, Chicago, stressed the importance of having a program that is “real and sustainable.” The proper staff and CEO support is key to successfully administering the program, she said.

“Be a whiner if you have to,” she told the audience. “Whine to your CEO or whoever you report to. Whine constantly that you need sufficient staffing. It is hard to be the program certifier, compliance officer, set goals and do outreach without the necessary resources.”

It’s not enough to be diligent about certification, Thomas added. Monitoring to avoid fraud, enforcing compliance and providing proper program oversight of contracts are critical. “You have to be involved in monitoring the contract from beginning to end with constant documentation,” she explained.

Brenda R. Nnambi, chair of APTA’s Procurement & Materials Management DBE Subcommittee and manager, diversity and small business development, Sound Transit, Seattle, moderated the session.

Panelists were, from left, Linda Ford, FTA; Angela de la Rosa, Los Angeles World Airports; Tashai R. Smith, LA Metro; Janice R. Thomas, Metra, Chicago; and Brenda R. Nnambi, Sound Transit, Seattle, at the podium.

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