A drastic change has been implemented by the Washington State Department of Transportation (“WSDOT”) to the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (“DBE”) Program in Washington. Effective June 1, 2017, WSDOT has implemented a “waiver” to exclude women-owned DBEs[i] from qualifying toward Condition of Award (“COA”) Goals on federally-funded projects. This move is significant. It will likely result in long-lasting detrimental impacts on the DBE community, women-owned businesses, and the entire construction community in Washington. The construction industry should be in an uproar over this change. Instead, it has largely gone unnoticed (likely because its impacts have not yet been felt). It is a de facto exclusion of women-owned businesses from the DBE program, and the severity of this change cannot be overstated.
Under the waiver, women-owned businesses no longer satisfy COA Goals on federally-funded projects (i.e., projects receiving funding from the Federal Highway Administration) advertised after June 1, 2017. Existing contracts are not impacted and may continue to utilize women-owned DBEs to satisfy COA Goals until the project is complete. The waiver is not retroactive.